Proof: The Address Book by Sophie Calle in Production

Affinities

September 25th, 2012

I found an address book on the Rue des Martyrs… I will contact the people whose names are noted down. I will tell them, “I found an address book on the street by chance. Your number was in it. I’d like to meet you.”… Thus, I will get to know this man through his friends and acquaintances. I will try to discover who he is without ever meeting him.

—from The Address Book by Sophie Calle

 

Originally published as a daily serial in August, 1983 in the French newspaper Libération, The Address Book by Sophie Calle is one of the artist’s most controversial works. In twenty-nine image+text entries in which she narrates her encounters with people listed the address book, she collages together a fragile but intimate portrait of a stranger—a man in absentia. When Pierre D., the actual owner of the address book, protested this invasion of his privacy, Calle agreed not to republish the work until after his death. Now, almost thirty years after the original work appeared in French, The Address Book is available for the first time in its entirety in English.

Because the original work appeared in a tabloid-sized newspaper with one entry each day, the first challenge was redesigning the layout not only for the much smaller page (the trim size of this book is 5.25″ x 7″) but also for the rhythm and flow of a book in which those entries accumulate. Calle also wanted this book to have the feel of an actual address book: paper without pretensions, a nice fit in the hand, a sense of utility and simple elegance. After the design, the biggest challenge was getting the right combination of ink and paper.

Photographs and artwork are most often printed on coated paper because the ink doesn’t soak in and the ink dots stay small; therefore, details pop, and solid colors are more saturated and uniform. Uncoated paper is a sponge and the surface is often toothy, so the images can lose contrast and detail; it even prints at a lower resolution because the ink dots spread wide. But this kind of paper has character (in every sense). It signals a measure of contrariness, a resistance to the slick, glossy and fetishistic in favor of the tactile, the everyday, the kind of beauty that, instead of styled, is found or framed. (We’ve printed other Siglio books on uncoated paper, most recently O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica.)

So we embarked on a long process that began with the first proofs (1 – 2) in March on a lovely creamy paper but the blacks went  dull and gray. We tried different, whiter stocks (3 – 5), then we adjusted the files, tested various combinations of ink and varnish (6) to get the richest blacks, then pulled the penultimate proof (7) in late June to determine the last tweaks. Meanwhile (8 – 9), we got ozalids which are basically “bluelines” to check that everything is positioned properly on the page and that the signatures are correct (the signatures are sets of 16 pages from which the book is assembled). This was a longer process than usual because Calle’s photographs required just the right balance between evoking their original life on newsprint (which prints at an even lower resolution) and having these images come alive in the book. When the samples finally arrived, we ripped open the package (10) and were very happy to find a book (11) that is everything we hoped it would be.

The Address Book by Sophie Calle is officially out October 31, 2012. You can get more information about the book and order it on the siglio website.

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