Behind the Scenes–Flesk Photography–Howard Pyle

Behind the scenes at our office.

Vicky and I spent the day photographing a few dozen rare books from Bud Plant’s personal collection. These books, all of which are illustrated by Howard Pyle, are the nicest copies that I’ve ever seen. All are first editions that required careful handling.

We prefer to photograph art and books since we can control the lighting and get better quality files for reproducing in books than is capable with a scanner. Scanners emit a bright, harsh light, that offers less control. We still use scanners, although that method remains our backup approach.

Another limitation to scanning is the requirement to lay an object flat, which is not an option for a high grade rare book that is 100 to 150 years old. My goal, when borrowing books or art from people, is to return the item in the same shape in which I received it.

Vicky and I have both been involved in photography and art for decades. We both have a passion for beautiful things, whether made by people or found in the natural world. She has more patience than I do, and I fully trust her, so I tend to step back when she is setting up the lights. It can take a few hours to arrange the right environment for the task at hand, but once it’s locked in the day becomes meditative as we work together. I handle and hold the books as she takes the pictures. We have music playing in the background and we chat. Before you know it, the job is done and it didn’t feel like work.

We have amassed a staggering amount of high quality digital files on Howard Pyle. Slowly, in-between other projects, we will put together a collection much in the same way as we did with Edwin Austin Abbey and Franklin Booth. This could be released in 2, 5, or 10 years in the future. I learned long ago that the books dictate the time they need to get made, not me.

I’m grateful to Vicky for her help and expertise, as well as to Bud for trusting us enough to loan us these valuable treasures.



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Text copyright © 2024 John Fleskes. Photos by Vicky Lien and John Fleskes and © 2024 . Videos © 2024 Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2024 its respective artists. All rights reserved.