Beneath the Surface: 1920s New Orleans in Rotogravure
December 7, 2017 – January 31, 2018
Opening: Friday, Dec 8, 7-11pm
For years, Joseph Makkos salvaged letterpresses and cases of rare type from local defunct print shops. He was trawling through Craigslist one day in 2013 when he came upon an ad for a “historic newspaper collection.” Hours later, he had become the proud owner of a Daily Picayune archive from 1888 up to 1930, a collection carefully preserved in some 30,000 airtight tubes.
The trove had originally been part of the newspaper holdings of the British Library. This once vast archive of newspapers from throughout the world was scattered and largely pulped in the late 1990’s, a tragic story that features prominently in Double Fold, Nicholson Baker’s book decrying the routine destruction of original newsprint and old books.
Inspired by other print conservation efforts, Makkos launched Nola DNA to not only preserve these newspapers but also nurture an appreciation for their true pricelessness. Nola DNA draws on the wealth of stories and images from the Daily Picayune to recover what would otherwise be lost to the ages.
The exhibition “Beneath the Surface: 1920s New Orleans in Rotogravure” features one special part of the Nola DNA collection: the Rotogravure Supplements. Originally inserted in the Sunday newspapers throughout the 1920s, they are the precursor to what became known by the 1940s as the “Dixie Roto Magazine”.
In 1932 a George Gallup “Survey of Reader Interest in Various Sections of Sunday Newspapers to Determine the Relative Value of Rotogravure as an Advertising Medium” found that these special rotogravures were the most widely read sections of the paper and that advertisements there were three times more likely to be seen by readers than in any other section.
The exceptionally detailed printing process is a truly masterful means of reproducing high quality photographic images contained within elaborate page spreads in true sepia tones. This exhibition will present a special selection of these sections, revealing an extraordinary glimpse of a bygone New Orleans era, all as the city swiftly approaches its tricentennial.
The exhibition is presented at the Picayune Social House, a new restaurant housed in the very same building that held the offices of the Daily Picayune from 1850-1920!
• a printing system using a rotary press with intaglio cylinders, typically running at high speed and used for long print runs of magazines and stamps.
• a sheet or magazine printed with this system, esp. the color magazine of a Sunday newspaper.