Perfect Imperfection: Reproducing Images in Offset Today

A man wearing white coveralls stands in a room surrounded by books and files

© 2023 Werner Bartsch


To be given by Gerhard Steidl

Perfect Imperfection: Reproducing Images in Offset Today

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 Wednesday 18 October 2023

 5 – 6pm

  At the Weston Library

  Free event, booking required

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About the event 

The Richard Benson Lecture on the Reproduced Image commemorates the life and work of American photographer, printer, teacher and author Richard Benson (1943 – 2017). This year, the lecture will be delivered by Gerhard Steidl:

Have you ever listened to a Beatles record and thought Ringo Starr mightn’t be such a brilliant drummer after all? If yes, you’d be wrong! In the 2023 Richard Benson Lecture on the Reproduced Image, 'Perfect Imperfection: Reproducing Images in Offset Today', printer and publisher Gerhard Steidl reveals both that Ringo is capable of great subtlety and how this anecdote applies to Steidl books: printed multiples crafted in the offset tradition.

One of Steidl’s role models today is music producer Giles Martin, who has remixed and remastered many Beatles recordings, as closely as possible embodying the band’s first intentions and rediscovering hidden analogue details in the originals along the way. Martin’s method of intricately separating layers of sound, enhancing and recombining them through the most advanced digital technology, has direct parallels to Steidl’s work.

Take, for example, the 2023 edition of Mary Ellen Mark’s seminal book, Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay, for which Steidl scanned Mark’s original Kodachrome colour transparencies to faithfully recreate the colours that confronted her eyes in Mumbai in the late 1970s. Or the scanning and digital processing (and occasional reconstruction) of the thousands of chromes in William Eggleston’s archive for an ongoing series of multiple-volume publications, discovering the true nature of colours which had been inaccurately printed in past books due to limited technology.

Whether reproducing the paintings of Ed Ruscha, the drawings of Roni Horn, the prints of Richard Serra, or the photos of Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Dayanita Singh, Joel Sternfeld and more, Steidl’s ambition is to project himself into the artist’s mind at the time of the original’s creation. Only so can he aim to perfectly reproduce the imperfect human character of the artwork, to preserve it through ink on paper, safely enclosed between the covers of a printed book.


Born in 1950 in Göttingen, Germany, Gerhard Steidl founded his publishing house and screen-printing workshop for graphic art and posters in 1968. Today Steidl publishes the largest worldwide program of contemporary photobooks and a select literature list in German. He furthermore conceives and curates international exhibitions. In 2020 Steidl became the first non-photographer to receive the Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize at the Sony World Photography Awards, and was awarded the Gutenberg Prize by the International Gutenberg Society in Mainz. In 2021 he received the Grand Cross of Merit of Lower Saxony, and the publishing house received the Deutscher Verlagspreis (German Publishers Award). Steidl is the initiator and founding director of Kunsthaus Göttingen, which opened in June 2021.

In 2022 Steidl was guest lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim, Germany. In 2023 he ranked among the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung’s “50 Most Important Germans in Fashion” and held the Richard Benson Lecture on the Reproduced Image at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

 Booking information

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Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG

 Wheelchair access

The Weston Library is wheelchair accessible.

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