Spring Comes to the Printed Page: Visionaire’s Light-Sensitive Magazine

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Spring is here, and magazines are jostling to evoke the season. But the newsstand rags have got nothing on the latest issue of Visionaire. “Solar,” a collaboration with Calvin Klein, arrives inside a sturdy paperboard slip case. All of the print and images inside the book are light grey and ghostly. But they’ve been printed in photo-sensitive inks: When exposed to sunlight, every page blooms into full color. The various spreads were created by art-world stars, including John Baldessari, Alex Katz, and Ugo Rondione.

The Web site does a decent job of conveying the effect of the sun on the each page. The digital reproduction will have to suffice, since the real-deal can’t be found on newsstands. Visionaire has always been conceived as a collector’s object, and this issue runs a cool $250.

But it’s not hard to imagine that a mainstream magazine will be quick to follow on the innovation. Publishers are struggling to create tactile objects that have to be bought, and not just read online. There was, for example, Esquire‘s fairly lame E-ink issue. Photosensitive inks aren’t extravagantly expensive–Visionaire costs so much because of the contributors it hires. How much fun would it be to read a feature story about nature that you have to expose to sunlight before it reveals itself?

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