Ruben van Luijk started giving photography serious attention at the beginning of our century with his Pentax KM. Back then, digital cameras gave sub-par results; his idea of a good machine was a mid-century workhorse used by documentary pros. It still is.
Ruben manages Nadorst Publishing, a foundation established in 2000 by a Dutch female poet. He first got involved with it in 2004 during one of their hosted exhibitions when some of his photographs, displayed in pub toilets, got stolen.
Ten years ago, along with two of his friends, he transitioned Nadorst into a non-profit publishing house. Today, Ruben still prints Dutch literature with a recent addition of photo essays, shot on film.
During our email exchange, he explained that the job is a hard one. The budgets are ultra-light, which force him to do most of the labour and publish just a few times a year. Yet Ruben still manages to favour responsible business practices: forest stewardship council paper, environmentally-friendly ink and fair dues for all of his authors.
Leporello Series, Nadorst’s newest feature, includes his and Rens Horn’s work in a long, foldable paper format.
The artists connected in Rotterdam over their passion for analogue photography. Ruben describes Rens as a “real darkroom wizard.” A Harley Davidson rider who takes pictures of his journeys on compact film cameras.
When I asked Ruben about his preference for analogue cameras, he described it as an addiction to the simplicity of film cameras.
...[T]he principle is very simple: light projecting a mirror image of the world on a surface coated with light sensitive chemicals. But the image you get can be so different than you thought it would be!.. I am now part of a minority. I like this, I like the last ditch effort we must make to work the way we want, the energy of keeping something alive or of reviving it while others have already shelved it.
Ruben used to shoot with Pentax 6x7, an expensive, high-quality SLR. However, its complexity and high-end tech drove him away and towards Agfa Clack — a simple plastic camera. “I found out that I was not really interested in extreme sharpness or technical prowess and I did not want to concentrate on the controls of the camera but on composition and on the image I saw before me. The Clack has just three settings — 3-10 feet, 10 feet-infinity with a cloudy sky and 10ft-infinity on a sunny day.”
Leporello, the format of Nadorst’s new publication, is “not really a book but a stretch of paper folded to look like it” — as Ruben explained to me in his email. It’s a comparatively cheap method, since there’s no binding involved. There’s a lot of freedom in terms of size and aspect ratio. “A toy and a work of art in itself.”
This clever technique of assembling printed medium is known to be produced as far back as the fifth century BCE. The “accordion book” may have gotten its name from 1787 opera Don Giovanni. There, a servant named Leporello dramatically unfolds his master’s list of romantic conquests, dropping its last page all the way to the floor.
The binding format can come in a variety of clever shapes. Some made to look like seashells or even ancient crustaceans.
Nadorst’s Leporellos are printed digitally, mostly due to printer requirements, on quality paper. They ship worldwide as a limited edition with either 18 or 26 pages, measuring 17x24.5cm or 6.5x9.65”. Individual books cost twenty-five euros and could be purchased here, while the supplies last.