Not all photographers go ‘on press’ for their books. If the printer has a lot of experience printing photographic books and the proofs are spot on then it can simply be a case of the printer doing their best to match the proofs. When Aperture first asked if I would want to go on press I felt it important for a lot of reasons. My photographs are not easy to print. The crummy lighting often can make getting things neutral very tough, other times a nuanced shade can get lost and frankly I’ve seen my work produced badly enough to try and coax as good quality out of the book version as possible. In addition I knew I could learn a lot about the CMYK printing process while there. Honestly I was not all that enthralled with spending a week in China. It’s not that I’m not enamored with the idea of the place, I’ve certainly thought often of China in relation to my work over the years, but the idea of a trip that taxing sounded very ‘un-fun’, in addition to the expense, I was hoping a trip to China could be more explorative.
The un-funness was clear when stepping into the giant plane tube to endure 15 hours of recycled air, grumpy folks and Adam Sandler movies (is a plane ride ever fun these days?). 4 movies, some naps and 2 1/2 meals later I was groggily picked by Philip See from Main Choice. Philip drove me from Hong Kong into mainland China and up into Dongguan. Dongguan is a large manufacturing city producing many of the consumer goods that appear in my photographs. I had known of Dongguan since it is ironically home to one of the world’s largest Dead Malls, the New South China Mall. Hopes of photographing at this place were curbed quick though by the tight schedule printing. PBS Documentary, Utopia on the New South China Mall. The more I mentioned a possible visit to the place, the more my hosts seemed rather nervous about the prospect of a westerner roaming the streets at all. (Can’t say I don’t blame them, I do have a bit of track record of getting myself into places I don’t belong).
We arrived late that evening at the Goodview Hotel which was a surreal sort of place with bellhops in Hawaiian outfits and cowboy hats. Roaming the lobby were random bunches of white dudes with several cell phones on their belt and looking rather confused. This all gave the sense of the film, Lost in Translation.
One of the great things about traveling for work is the access. I hate feeling like a tourist and having a guide or host often presents some great and real experiences that give a much better flavor for a place than hitting the iconic sites. In general I enjoy having a policy of not saying no at all. Makes for some delicious meals and new tastes.
Finally it’s trying to sleep off the jet lag as the next day is a big day of printing.