Upper Case, Lower Case, Italics & Caps

Ampersand Abstract #6, Vancouver 2010


I love the mystery of what’s in the drawers. In the letterpress printing room, scores of drawers hold dozens of fonts. Each heavy type drawer hides intriguing treasures, from the largest wooden blocks lying in stately fashion in their own compartments, to the tiniest metal characters sorted into containers by letter.


Hamilton Type Drawers, Vancouver 2010

© Leslie Hossack

In 2010 when I took a letterpress printing workshop at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, I fell in love with ampersands. I also became fascinated with wooden type. I spent more time in the letterpress room photographing the beautifully handcrafted blocks than typesetting. This series of images celebrates the expressive art of traditional letterpress printing.

With the abstract photographs presented here, I set out to explore the intricate relationship between contemporary photography and traditional printing. Letterpress images are printed by hand, one colour at a time, when a raised inked surface is pressed into paper. Today in the digital darkroom, photographs are still crafted one image at a time and then printed on an inkjet printer.

Of all the typographical characters that I encountered in the type drawers, the ampersand was my favourite. I photographed every ampersand wooden type block that I could find; I also printed each one by hand on a table top printer in the letterpress room. The ampersand abstracts in this series were then created in my digital darkroom by combining the original photograph of the wooden type face and a representation of what that character would look like when printed using black ink.

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