To escape the summer heat Bill Maroldo and I paid a visit to the Printing Museum. It is located way down in the Montrose area on West Clay St and if you haven't driven around there lately you will be shocked. Three-story townhouses on every street, looming over the few hold out bungalows. And, I have never seen so many new mid-rise apartment buildings with their own parking garages. A lot of familiar buildings are gone and the area looks sleek and prosperous. And expensive and crowded. Also, it looks a bit like we are overbuilt in high-dollar apartments, but, hey what do I know?
We had checked first and non-flash photography was permitted in the museum. The staff happily allowed us to bring in our tripods since it was not at all crowded on a weekday. I used my new Sigma 10-20 wide angle for most of the photos, but brought in the Sony 70-400 G2 for some detail photos later. It was a huge challenge to manage depth of field in such low light conditions.
I had never ever shot such slow shutter speeds! And I have to confess, I did not bother much with the actual history of printing and can't even tell you anything about the above printing machine. My sole concentration was on shapes and textures and light and shadows. All of these photos this week can be clicked for the full size. Go ahead, try it and let me know if you think I should do this more.
I did notice in this room there was a very early Xerox machine. It was gigantic and there was a keyed lock for the compartment that must have held the paper and toners. Don't you bet it was in a separate room operated by specially trained people?
This wonderful piece was at the end of a hallway and I looked for an artist's card but no luck. The neon was turned off or doesn't work. It is one of those pieces you can look at for hours and never see all the fantastic detail.
The museum space is several rooms connected by hallways. The lighting is on motion-sensor timers to save money and/or protect the displayed paper items. I had taken some photos in the Hearst Newspaper Gallery of an early Linotype machine but later I walked by and the room was in darkness except for a single lamp:
Naturally, I activated the interior lights when I attempted to set up my shot. So I had to wait until the lights went off again. I took a few shots and then accidentally activated the lights again trying to get closer. So, I waited some more. It took about 10 minutes before they would go out. And then, I was making some shots and a visitor stepped up to talk to me and set off the sensor.... this shot took a while but it was definitely worth the wait.
The Linotype was invented by Ottmar Merganthaler in 1886 and it is credited with an increase in literacy rates as it changed the speed of production of newspapers and books.
Reading about the inventor I noticed he died of tuberculosis in 1899. I recently watched The Forgotten Plague on Amazon Prime. During the 1800s, TB caused nearly 25% of all deaths. Don't you recall people dying of 'consumption' in novels set in that time? Pasteurized milk, public health efforts and streptomycin made curing tuberculosis a possibility; at least in Western countries. Drug resistant TB, the rise of diabetes and the ease of global travel might change that.
But I digress.
The purpose of going to the Printing Museum was to get some detail shots of machinery for making art. Much easier to take photos of gears and wheels in air conditioned comfort than at some junk yard on the side of the road.
So far, I have just been combining photos from that day but I can already imagine fitting some of the shapes in with other images. It was a fun day, and for anyone seriously interested in printing there is a wealth of information.
And there is a super-cool building just a few blocks away on Clay. Clarke & Courts were famous printers in the area and this building now is office space called TriBeca Lofts. I love fonts with circular O's. Thank goodness this has not fallen prey to the wrecking ball.
Did you miss the birds this week? Aren't you thrilled to know I go some places where I don't wear rubber boots? And did this make you think about how easy it is for us to communicate and get news compared to the past?