The Richard Benson Lecture on the Reproduced Image commemorates the life and work of American photographer, printer, teacher and author Richard Benson (1943 – 2017). This year, the lecture will be delivered by Gerhard Steidl.
Have you ever listened to a Beatles record and thought Ringo Starr mightn’t be such a brilliant drummer after all? If yes, you’d be wrong! In the 2023 Richard Benson Lecture on the Reproduced Image, ‘Perfect Imperfection: Reproducing Images in Offset Today’, printer and publisher Gerhard Steidl reveals both that Ringo is capable of great subtlety and how this anecdote applies to Steidl books: printed multiples crafted in the offset tradition.
One of Steidl’s role models today is music producer Giles Martin, who has remixed and remastered many Beatles recordings, as closely as possible embodying the band’s first intentions and rediscovering hidden analogue details in the originals along the way. Martin’s method of intricately separating layers of sound, enhancing and recombining them through the most advanced digital technology, has direct parallels to Steidl’s work.
Take, for example, the 2023 edition of Mary Ellen Mark’s seminal book, Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay, for which Steidl scanned Mark’s original Kodachrome colour transparencies to faithfully recreate the colours that confronted her eyes in Mumbai in the late 1970s. Or the scanning and digital processing (and occasional reconstruction) of the thousands of chromes in William Eggleston’s archive for an ongoing series of multiple-volume publications, discovering the true nature of colours which had been inaccurately printed in past books due to limited technology.
Whether reproducing the paintings of Ed Ruscha, the drawings of Roni Horn, the prints of Richard Serra, or the photos of Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Dayanita Singh, Joel Sternfeld and more, Steidl’s ambition is to project himself into the artist’s mind at the time of the original’s creation. Only so can he aim to perfectly reproduce the imperfect human character of the artwork, to preserve it through ink on paper, safely enclosed between the covers of a printed book.