Gerhard Steidl | Perfection of Print and Photography



Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker profile, “The Book Monk*: He is the printer the world’s best photographers trust most” opened the pages on a man whose German heritage influenced not only his work product – critical attention to detail and perfection – but his footprint on the world.

Gerhard Steidl captured my fascination for three reasons.

1 – He is someone who is an influential person in an unexpected niche of industry

Who knew printing could be an elite art? And yet, once again I am reminded that success comes from excellence, not industry. “Steidl, who is sixty-six, is known for fanatical attention to detail, for superlative craftsmanship, and for embracing the best that technology has to offer…Steidl seeks out the best inks, and pillars new techniques for achieving exquisite reproductions.”

2 – His heritage influenced a self-awareness of impact and community

Steidl’s father was in the German army during WWII, from which he learned one shouldn’t separate life and work. Officers who ran concentration camps would work in the camps, then leave the walls to their families, completely leaving behind the impacts of their actions. Steidl refuses make a negative impact on others, so he keeps himself honest by living where he works. “I control my noise, because I am sleeping there, with an open window every night.”

3 – His success came from being ballsy

My two favorites stories are ONE: He printed his first works on snarfed newspaper and he earned money to buy his first printing equipment at 16 by selling his prescription diet pills. “‘The empire was built on family crime,’ he told me with satisfaction.” TWO: Karl Lagerfeld won a prize to have a monograph printed about him and he rejected it. Steidl – needing the money – proposed alternatives until Karl agreed to have him test a photo book. While reviewing the test prints…“Presenting one image, Steidl cautioned, ‘This is beautiful paper, but it is very expensive.’ Lagerfeld responded with four words: ‘Gerhard, are we poor?'”

I now need to watch the documentary “How to Make a Book with Steidl“**, read Günter Grass, and track down some of his books in real life.

*This title is from the print version of the article.

**God bless the german accent.

Photographs of the Syria struggle

I have had the opportunity to travel. In most places I avoided touristy destinations in an effort to find and experience worlds unique from my American ones. Very few pleasure vacations are more raw than winding down Turkish back roads guided only by a piece of paper that you hope was translated into Turkish correctly.

Time published a series of photographs from photojournalists covering the conflict in Syria between the Assad regime and the rebels. They are powerful: a collection of the journalists favorite images.

Perhaps more than anything I have shocked at the resilience of these people. The above image is of a man returning home to his family with his groceries. He has to run across the street to avoid the sniper haunting the street.

I’m not sure if it is because I have seen the beauty of these foreign place that I ache for those thrown into the wars. Maybe it’s because I have no way of really comprehending the world the Syrian rebels are currently living and these journalists images have succeeded in moving their audience that I find myself wishing I could be there photographing the situation. It feels more concrete, like these people and their cameras are doing more to help resolve this situation than anything I can do from my padded chair in America.