My next stranger profile is of a man whom I can learn a lot from in the near future, both for my current design work and also for future projects that I have planned. Stranger #29 is Michael, curator at the Melbourne Museum of Printing (MMoP).
As I work in the design industry everyday, typography is something that I have always been excited by – and hand set typography, particularly with processes like letterpress and linotype is something I have always wanted to learn more about. Ever since I was a young boy growing up on a farm, pulling apart old machinery and rebuilding it again was something I loved to do. I was always fascinated with the way the machinery worked, some of them were just pure magic to watch. I remember my grandmother showing me an old Binder Machine in action – it was simply amazing, and its the same feeling I get when I see a machine such as the Heidelberg Windmill wooshing and swooshing in its movements. Its something I can see myself doing for a long time in the future and thats exciting!
Anyway, thats where Michael comes into the picture. I was yearning to learn even more and start getting my hands dirty with the wonderful world of printing, so after some google research and plenty of people recommending me to check out the MMoP I was off on a sunday drive. Thats when I met Michael and his amazing collection of printing machines. I was in heaven.
Michael started his interest in printing when he was just 9 years old and now at the young age of 71, he still has a burning passion for the craft and is willing to pass on his knowledge to anyone who is willing to learn at the MMoP through tours, workshops and access to their Letterpress Studio that is made available to the public. As the website states, MMoP’s mission is
“To preserve and operate a wide range of machines and processes relating to the craft and business of printing, so providing an ambience in which persons with knowledge and experience of traditional aspects of the craft and its related skills will be motivated to retain their skills and pass them on.”
On this particular day at the museum, I had hand-set my own paragraph of type, casted my own ‘slug’ of type using the Ludlow Typograph machine (a hot-metal linecasting system), took in a wealth of information from Michael’s talks, and even discovered a new way to enjoy Scotch Finger biscuits with my tea (I can’t tell you too much about that as its Michael’s secret). So it was only fitting that I took his portrait for this series.
The lighting was a bit dim and without a flash I just moved him into an area which had an even coverage of light. I also wanted to place Michael in-front of one of the original hand typesetting cases to put the shot in context. Michael is a bit of a smiler by nature, but I really like the grin he gave in this pose. Now, when I say ‘pose’ this is exactly what it was, “I’ve been photographed a few times in the past” he said with a chuckle – such a pro!
Some photographers who have participated in this project have mentioned becoming friends with certain strangers after their initial encounters. Michael is one of those people for me and having already met up with him a couple of times since this encounter, I hope he can continue to fill my mind with all his knowledge about these wonderful printing processes and machines so that my future design project’s can help showcase the talented people in the world, just like Michael, who have dedicated so much of their time and life to such a beautiful craft.
Thank you Michael for being a part of this project, I hope you enjoy this portrait and I have a feeling this wont be the last photograph you see me snapping at your museum. If your ever in Melbourne and want to learn and practice real typesetting and printing, then be sure to make a visit to the Museum to make sure this venue remains. There is also a new documentary film that premiered in Australia this week called “Linotype: The Film” which I highly recommend to anyone interested in this craft.