Is Grey The New Black ?

As its a British Bank holiday weekend and the heavens have opened already I thought I would share this photo-book whinge with you , I have invested hard earned cash in photography art books for longer than I care to remember , I enjoy the high production values of the best books almost as much as the photographic content within, but all is not well in my photo book world !

Strangely enough this whinge is not inspired by a badly produced photo book but by a beautifully created publication by Steidl that helped me realise that many of the digitally printed efforts I have acquired in the last few years are victims of lower production values, some pages are not much better than average photo copies , the disappointment is greatest amongst reproductions of works I have seen first hand or in older lithographic editions . Its not much to ask that black and white photographs are reproduced containing at least a tone representing a meaningful meaty black alongside clean midtone greys and bright clear whites !

One of the contributory factors appears to be a trend for full tonal range prints that can be created via a little digital jiggery pokery from digital scans and look quite anemic when viewed alongside the original period prints that quite often appear to have been made from slightly underexposed negatives in the case of Tony Ray-Jones , although I think the production of prints that were a little overprinted was quite fashionable in the 1970's .

I wonder if work created in the last century is being misrepresented by the 21st century printing process ?

I have just compared Grim Street by Mark Cohen with the more recent Frame by the same photographer , although the repro in Frame is not that bad it appears to be soulless when viewed alongside the masterpiece that is Grim Street . I believe Grim Street was created via a litho press and Frame via a digital workflow  ?  Those who know about book printing tell me that its all about the operator, as both processes are capable of great or awful results,  ?


I have to admit that the older books in my collection appear to possess higher quality reproductions than most recent acquisitions . A Day Off by TRJ is a interesting example of a book that appears to have been badly reproduced (Dark), until you see the original prints that were supplied to Thames & Hudson , recent digital reproductions of these works are richer in detail but lack the personality of the original work in my opinion .

Its great that more  projects than ever are making it into print,  however the quality of reproduction should not be compromised,as second rate publishing will lead to dissatisfaction and the demise of what is currently a growing market .

The book that inspired this piece is Arbiet / Work by Chris Killip and published by Steidl, the reproduction is stunning although the pictures of my home town still conflict me , as does the photographer who created them .

Keep it real !