Reasonable Ideas: “By Hand”

One of my (many, many) unfulfilled video series ideas is to do something on the explosion of interest in activities you do by hand (no computer, electronic media, or digital element involved). The elaborate tableau-like (and mesmerizing) analog photography of the Parke-Harrisons is an example (as are many other photographers in the “new antique photography” movement.)

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A Parke-Harrison work (everything is built by hand and staged for the picture). (Although their more recent work looks like they have moved on to digital techniques.)

Knitting, many aspects of food and cooking, and in some ways the whole search for authenticity in certain kinds of music fit into this “by hand” category for me. (At some point I’ll get around to writing about my–somewhat shaky–thesis about the advent of the CD as the trigger for the spread of the early music movement in classical music, a study in ironies that one. Early music was emphatically about bringing back ways of playing and listening that were not of the 20th century, but in fact only reached musicians and listeners through CDs, which by definition could never be an authentic acoustic experience.)

Wall of Type at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum

Printing and type, in particular, affords a lot of opportunities for thinking about “by hand” pre-digital work, and I just learned that the era of wooden type is preserved in a museum in WI, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum. A piece in Design Observer tipped me off, and it includes the droll fact that Matthew Carter (genius type designer of Verdana and thus probably somebody whose work you will be using today) designed a type face for the Hamilton, Van Lanen Carter Latin, expressly to be made out of wood. I hardly need to add that, of course, you can also buy a digital version of Carter Latin.

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