From the moment “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film” began, the idea of letterpress being a obsolete technology was impressed upon the viewer. The main question being raised was: why has an outdated technology survived, and in some cases even thrived, in an age saturated with digital media? Only a couple of decades ago, many in the printing industry assumed that letterpress would be dead by now. So why has this slow and tedious process survived so much longer than expected? Could it simply be luck, a printing miracle? Or, is there something deeper to be found in the gears, ink, and fonts of letterpress?
Letterpress printing is a technology often accredited with bringing humanity out of the dark ages and into a time of new ideas and empowerment. Today, letterpress is an art form, not necessary for our intellectual improvement but for our creative fulfillment. When words and images are impressed upon the paper and the ink leaves its mark, it is almost like printing a piece of history, because each piece that goes into letterpress is unique and carries with it its own past. Letterpress is a hands on and dirty experience, but extremely well designed and logical – a testament to human ingenuity. And, although the technology may be outdated, preservation of such an antiquity is admirable.
Today’s world is one in which convenience and ease reign supreme. Letterpress proclaims the opposite – hard work, and a real, tangible connection with the world around us – is far more important. Protecting the tradition of letterpress is connection to the past that does not drive us back, but rather, propels us into the future. Documenting is what keeps our ideas alive, and letterpress is the agent by which we can do so. It is not a transient technology.
So, I suppose there are innumerable reasons why letterpress has prevailed in this digital age, but the most compelling reason why is the people. In the film, we meet different types of people, each with unique lives and stories, but one thing they all have in common is a love for creating. These people do not want to be far from there creation either, but they want to put themselves into it. They want to feel the ink and the pages. Their closeness is essential to the craftsmanship in their creation and their determination and passion is what keeps letterpress, not just a fancy exhibit in a museum, but alive.