Pulling the Press
By: Alex Fatato
After working with cold metal type, I have to say I understand the resurgence around the letterpress that is going on today. I think that the reasons behind it are applicable to other resurgences as well - young people are fascinated with how things “used to be” and enjoy going through the process to make something that seems to be more genuine. I enjoy shooting film photography, listening to vinyl and cassettes, and recording to analog tape. Doing things the “old” way, after growing up with faster, more streamlined technology, makes the product more tangible and special. Holding a physical album, hearing a tape warble, or guessing the exposure wrong on a roll of film all are satisfactory. It seems more real, and the stakes are higher. I think the same is true for the letterpress today. The lab was a pretty satisfying experience, especially physically pressing the type onto the paper, messing up, and figuring out how to do it right.
I think that in all of these practices, they depart from history because now they are a hobby rather than a necessity. When my dad saw my film camera he said, “Are you serious? I used to have to mess with those all the time. Why don’t you just use your phone?” But I have only known digital cameras and cell phone cameras, and the return to the mechanical process of manually focusing, choosing an f-stop and exposure was new and fun. The same applies to the letterpress, it is fun, interesting, and tangible. It allows us to consider our words a lot more because we hold each letter and there is no delete button. Returning to these practices of the past give us a new perspective into our daily lives.