It is with a heavy heart that I announce that October 19th, 2012 was the last day of operation for Howard Quinn Company. Howard Quinn has been printing in the same location since 1961 and has been a perfect reflection of the changes in San Francisco over the past five decades. When I began shooting photographs and video at Howard Quinn in January, it was like stepping into a time capsule of printing technology and San Francisco history. The building which houses the printing company was built in 1920’s and tinplate tiles from the era adorn ceilings on the lower level. The smell of printers ink and oil saturate the air, and around every turn is evidence of a half century of hard work, deadlines met, and the pride of customer satisfaction. They know every idiosyncrasy of their presses and every nuance of pre-press. Howard Quinn’s output has shaped the community and stands as a tribute to the power of the printed word.
My work on this project is often focused on the societal effects of newspaper presses, but for printing companies that is rarely a concern. Printing is after all a business, and that business is focused around meeting deadlines and customer satisfaction. In my conversations with the management at Howard Quinn, one thing was abundantly clear: the thing they were most proud of was treating their employees with fairness and respect and allowing them to earn a good living. Many of the employees have spent their entire working lives at this company and never once were they subject to the pay cuts which have plagued the rest of the newspaper industry. There is an overwhelming feeling of family and loyalty, which every employee recognizes is a rarity in today’s work environment. Howard Quinn has an amazingly dedicated staff and a press room that is run with incredible precision and professionalism. I have gotten to know all of the employees in my many visits there, and I want to express my deepest thanks for allowing me a glimpse into their world.
In the coming months I will be documenting the final steps in the closure of Howard Quinn. It is always difficult to be witness to the end of any business, but I think it is extremely important for the arc of this project. I have also been working with the staff and I have produced a 16 page tabloid which was the last four-color job printed on their presses. Later this week I will post video and images of the making of the tabloid, it will be for sale to help fund the completion and distribution of this project.
Here are some images of the people who made Howard Quinn work for over 50 years: