I have been wanting to show you the business cards we did for photographer Ellen Anon for a while now. There is just no way to describe them or even to photograph them, though, that can really impart the amazingness of these beautiful objects, although Ellen’s photo above comes close. What doesn’t show is the way the color pops off and morphs as the angle of the card changes in relationship to light. This is because … well, let me start from the beginning:
Ellen called me one day out of the blue and wanted me to do some business cards for her. She is an award winning photographer who travels the world incessantly and takes the most staggeringly gorgeous photographs of the natural world and had stumbled onto my blog. I felt like I had known her all my life after the first phone call. We just clicked. It turns out Ellen is also the author of six books about photography and Photoshop, gives workshops all over the place and is interviewed for her expertise in these subjects.
We dug into the project immediately and it was the most fantastic collaboration. She started sending photographes to me and I was looking at them with a graphic designer’s eye for line, color, something that would give me that physical hit I get when I just know something is right. With letterpress printing, you really can’t have a four color image, at least not one you would be happy to look at. Photography and Letterpress Printing are two art forms that are in different galactic systems in terms of how color is laid down and of course many other factors, although there are many intersections, too, in the way we approach our crafts and how we perceive things.
Letterpress printing, particularly, with its deep impression into soft, non-shiny paper seems at odds with how a photograph can be interpreted. But that is the charge we set for ourselves. I wanted to incorporate one of her images into the design and logo, but it was going to have to be done in some very unusual way. I had recently finished Elizabeth Perkins’s business card that used a photograph of a grand stairway in England, turning it into a negative and printing that in white ink onto black paper. It was a very successful experiment and I thought I could use that experience to advantage for Ellen’s project.
Looking through her galleries was a great pleasure and of course an equally big puzzle. We looked at many images from all over the world together… wildly colored agricultural steppes in China, drama-queen trees, a crazy geyser in Nevada…all mind boggling, but when she sent me a picture of a river in Iceland that looked like a big tree branch, I just stopped everything.
This was IT.
So, how to turn a full color photo into something I could make into a letterpress image?
Yes…quite a question. Ellen went to work in Photoshop and so did I. We were burning up the airwaves with various iterations, nixing and mixing, then suddenly, there was this duotone…I said, what would happen if we turned each of the two layers into its own foil die? Then there was a moment when inspiration went out of control and I said, OK, the foils are going to be PEWTER/SILVERY and HOLOGRAPHIC TURQUOISE that turns into every shade of blue in the spectrum. That was also IT. We decided to put this glowing idea on black, super-thick Museum Mount paper for even more dramatic impact.
There were a lot of experiments that went back and forth to Pennsylvania — holographic blue with pewter, pewter and copper and even copper and holographic foil. They were ALL gorgeous! Everybody concurred. They were a big hit.
Because Ellen was hanging out of a plane high above an Icelandic landscape, trying to keep her camera from blasting out of her hands in the intense wind in order to take this shot, the many trials and errors, extra Skyping, and much discussing of ins and outs about the designing and printing of this image seems like almost, ALMOST, a piece of cake. Can you imagine? She is my hero.
Above, you see the original photograph and below, what we did with it to make it into her new logo and business card. Sheesh.
It was a very exciting and fulfilling project that got me and Ellen into the Friend Zone. There were a few doubts about whether the whole crazy idea would even work, as I conferred with our fabulous printer Rhea…the tension mounted and then…it did work and it is gorgeous.
We are all kind of gaga about the cards and the incredibly intense experience of working together toward such a satisfying ending. This is something, I am pretty sure, that has never been done before in the world. How cool is that?
Please go see Ellens work at ellenanon.com. Totally worth the trip.
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