For 40 years, Gerhard Steidl has combined the roles of printer and publisher, resolved to personally check each sheet leaving his printing shop in Göttingen. This perfectionism, combined with an unconditional love for books, for the traditional printing craft, and a commitment to the quality standards of manufacturing (in the original sense of the word, made by hand), has gained worldwide attention. The most internationally renowned photographic artists vie for the opportunity to collaborate with Gerhard Steidl, to conceive and produce the perfect publication with him.
Filmed in the direct cinema style, this documentary observes the publisher, as he collaborates with the world famous photographers Joel Sternfeld, Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Jeff Wall and Robert Adams, at their studios and other places of work, in New York, London and Paris, in the Katar desert, and, last but not least, in Göttingen. Here, in “Steidlville”, their works are printed on Steidl‘s own machines, in three shifts. In goes the idea, out comes the finished book.
Gerhard Steidl’s independent empire is founded on several sources of income – a significant portion of his publishing efforts being dedicated to Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel (printing everything for the designers, from admission tickets to catalogues). Other staples are the German metal workers’ collective labor agreement and, for many years, each new book by Nobel laureate Günter Grass. This is where he earns the money that he, to use his words, “throws out the window” on ambitious photographic art projects. He is a man in constant movement, a German entrepreneur who has made the whole world his home. His experience and artistic empathy, his untiring dedication and diligence have made him the most important publisher of photographic books of the last decade.