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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Memory of Steve Baron

Yesterday, I was contacted by associates who told me that Steve Baron died quietly in his home in New York.

Steve Baron was a mentor and friend, and I will greatly miss his dry humor and his remarkable skills. Steve and I knew each other for more than 25-years and it is Steve’s press management that helped to produce 8 of my 9 Aperture books. For those of you that may not realize this, when Aperture was a great powerhouse of photographic publishing, Steve oversaw the printing of all their publications. He was, indeed, a press master! Personally, I believe it was his attention to quality printing that made Aperture the publishing house it is noted as being.

At the time, Aperture prided itself on working with their artists, so if we chose to participate in the printing proof, we were invited. That means that the artist travels with the Production Manager to the location of the printing (in our case either Italy or Hong Kong) and then begins several days, perhaps even weeks, of constant press proofs as the signatures of the pages roll off. These signatures generally get printed every 4-6 hours around-the-clock, which means that the artists and the PM are “on-call” at ALL times. Needless to say, after several days of this pace, sleep is marginal, coffee is king and everything said is just a little funny.

Steve and I weathered macho Italian pressmen and unusual Chinese food together for many, many days, and did it all while having a wonderful time. Steve was also teaching me what I know about the press and quality control, and oh yes, we produced some beautiful books along the way.

Steve always seemed to me to be the calm at the eye of the storm. Regardless of the Aperture politics, the press failures, the language/communication issues, and the breakdowns in production that normally occur along the way, Steve was always calm and on top of it, resolving it in timely fashion and then laughing about it after the resolution.

I have many Steve Baron stories, but the one that says the most occurred in Italy when we were on press with Northwest Passage. The printing was difficult because of all of the whites and subtle colors and one of the signatures was truly awful. When we complained about having it all reprinted the Italian pressmen went crazy, basically telling us that we did not know what we were talking about, and as the artist, surely I did not know enough to be critical of their work. Steve pushed back and offered to take the book off the press and go somewhere else. Then the Italians calmed down and agreed to re-work the signature. Once they did, it was significantly better and the rest of the printing went on without incidence. When it was all over, the union pressmen had a small party for us in which they presented us with their union t-shirts, a great compliment to both of us.

Thank you Steve for the amazing books and for helping me to make a difference with how the public receives my words and ideas. Thank you for being a great friend and mentor. Thank you for tempering my dealings with Aperture, and most of all, thank you for making me a photographer that better understands the connection between his imagery and the way that it is applied in other mediums. You were the best, and your amazing legacy is all the books and artists you befriended and advanced with your amazing skills and patience. You will be missed!


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