Humanity - In Production

While driven by a passion for The Art of the Book, each of our titles in the soon to be complete 21st Editions Master Collection takes diligence, patience and intense focus. Humanity, our 57th collaboration involving 10 artisans, is no exception.

Here is what is involved in the making of Humanity: Conceptualizing and developing the content; designing the book; contact printing the platinum prints one at a time; selecting the paper; making or preparing the text paper to size; making and printing the letterpress plates; folding each signature to prepare for sewing; silk-screening the fabric for the box covers; cutting the separate pieces that will make up the box; constructing and lining the box; designing, printing, trimming and attaching the paste and flyleaf papers for each book; preparing the cloth for adhering to the cover boards and stamping them; trimming and tipping in nine platinum prints; making the folder for the three free-standing, signed platinum prints; attaching the finished cover boards to the sewn book block; marrying all fifty sets; and finally numbering each book before shipping to institutions and collectors at the end of the year.

Please call Pam or Steven (508 398 3000) regarding copies of Humanity that may still be available.

Steve McCurry's work presented in platinum for the first time

Although McCurry is best known as a color photographer, we have printed these images in platinum. There are two reasons for doing this. The first is to highlight the degree to which McCurry's work needs to be appreciated not only in the tradition of documentary, but also as a fine-art photographer. Critics typically refer to him as a documentarian. And yet the subtle tonal ranges and luminescence of these prints, coupled with the artistry of their compositions, reveals that they are at least as much "pictorial" as documentary. They explode the lingering and largely false dichotomy between fine-art and documentary photography.

...these platinum prints showcase new forms of McCurry's humanity, as compelling as their color counterparts. One might say that in different ways, each format highlights connections: between photographer, subject, and viewer; and/or among the people in the images. In both formats, it is as though McCurry penetrates beneath the surface into the heart and spirit, giving us a unique intimacy with his subjects. In doing so, he enlists his subjects as evangelists as few artists have done, bringing people together from around the world.

- from the introduction by John Stauffer

The First Year. 1998

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen posts we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy it.

The Garage, 1998

The Garage, 1998

Our humble beginnings started in 1998 in my half garage (shown below), not enough room to put a car in, but enough room to start a press unique to the history of photography, that has since published 50 titles, including some 150 world-class contributors and artists. We didn’t have any capital, whatsoever, and many in the industry thought we wouldn’t last. I asked my wife Janet, and she said: “What have we got to loose?” So, we mortgaged the house. That was sixteen years ago.

Today and now, 2014

Today and now, 2014

It all got started in 1998 at a round-table at a Chelsea restaurant, just doors away from the Chelsea Hotel. Present were John Stevenson, John Wood, Denise Bethel, Duane Michals, Ernestine Ruben, and I (Steven Albahari, Publisher). I made it clear that I wanted to pick up where Stieglitz left off, but go several steps further. We discussed names for the journal and the press. I think John Wood suggested 21st. John Stevenson hosted, Duane brought his trademark humor, John Wood was the exemplary Southern gentleman, Denise was delightful and smart, Ernestine charmed, and A.D. was like a proud father, since it was he who got me started in college giving me the job of bibliographer of his first ten years of photographic criticism.

And so began The Journal of Contemporary Photography.

In our next post: How we came to work with Joel-Peter Witkin, what transpired over the next decade, and the man behind the brilliance.