Master of the Craft

In a world where media is constantly evolving and people are adapting to new methods of creating, Peter Prato reminds us that we should not forget the art of slowing down and the age old techniques from where we began…

This is James Tucker. He started a printing press called The Aesthetic Union, based in San Francisco’s Mission District. They believe in “a well-appointed desk and an inspiring workspace… in collaborative projects and community involvement.” My kind of people. James and I first met a couple of years ago on my first editorial shoot. I like to think I’ve improved since then but the thing with staring at your own work most of every day and trying to figure out how to make it better is that it gets harder to see your work as something worth staring at, which is why I use photography as an excuse to look at other people’s work. Like James’, which is beautiful.

He, and his shop, are using century-old machines that build on five hundred years’ worth of printing press technology to make custom letterpress editions, contemporary art, and collaborative projects that challenge the notions of what dated technology can produce when operated by people that are passionate and curious, in addition to the growing and insatiable need in the world to convince ourselves that everything is in constant need of reinvention every day, all the time.

The great irony of all this disruption is that the technology it antiquates creates a sub-culture of historical interest. And while the cynics might lead you to believe that it’s a fad, there’s something undeniably wonderful about slowing down, and taking time, and mastering a craft. Not to mention getting a screen out of your face. Paying close attention will never go out of style.

The presses, sitting there in the back of his shop, these powerful sentries at the gate, stand at attention, ready to serve those that have taken the time to appreciate what it is that they protect, which is a culture of art, and science; of machinery, and that inexpressible human need to put ink to paper, to make their mark. So, when I get to meet someone like James because of what I love to do (which is meet interesting people, see new places, learn about them, and share that with others) then I start to see what I do, or try to do well, as beautiful, too.

ELLE Deco SA

ELLE Deco SA

ELLE Deco SA

ELLE Deco SA

Text and images by Peter Prato.


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