Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making a book in Guatemala: Part 1.

One of the several exciting aspects of doing a Spanish language edition of Guatemala: Eternal Spring Eternal Tyranny that most of the work, with one exception, was completed in Guatemala.

The photographic scans were produced at National Geographic Imagining at NG headquarters in Washington, DC. NG used a Hasselblad Flextight scanner to make 60MB scans from 167 Kodachrome and Ektachrome 200 (very few, yuck to Ektachrome). The scanning took about five business days (150 Kodachromes); cost was $12 per chrome for a 60MB scan. The result was spectacular. The scans were copied to two DVDs and a back-up hard drive for insurance. I took the scans to Guatemala in November, and sent a few stragglers via overnight in November.

In Guatemala, photographer Daniel Chauche (see Victor Perera, Unfinished Conquest: A Guatemalan Tragedy (Univ. of California, 1995) introduced me to a group of professionals who produced the book from that stage on. Without Daniel's intervention, this book would have been a disaster: not only does Daniel have a good eye for photographs and the editing process, but he is also connected to all the top photographic experts in Guatemala.

The process in Guatemala began with editing the photographs. Andrés Asturias, owner of Estudio/A2 in Guatemala City, is a great photographer and a technical wizard. (Check out the blog post below for his current show, Arena Negra, in Guatemala City.) Using 27-inch screen Macs and professional-standard PhotoShop software, Andrés enhanced the images. There is as much ethics as aesthetics built into the PhotoShop process, and if you have someone do this part, make sure you have similar ideas regarding the amount of manipulation you are comfortable with in a photo. Andrés' views on the subject were virtually identical to mine: I hate cropping and am uncomfortable with a lot of digital magic. Because all my pictures originally were taken with emulsion-based film (read: non-digital), in truth a good PhotoShopped image should have re-produced what was on the Kodachrome image. Since Kodachrome is unforgiving, I tried to give Andrés photos that were good quality in terms of saturation.. On a later post I will try to show some before and after images.

More on the design and printing process later.

National Geographic Imaging:

Daniel Chauche:

Andrés Asturias:

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