Mark Schwartz purchased his first photograph almost immediately after completing his Master of Fine Arts in Photography, and the collection started to truly develop in the 1990s.

The collection, which he curated with his wife and our current president Bettina Katz, populated their home—and spilled into our office. Like everything else in Mark’s life, there was little distinction between his work and his personal life. The fine arts generally and photography specifically have come to be an integral part of our identity and culture at N+S.

We’re particularly pleased to announce that this passion has taken a new form in 2020.

PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet

The exhibition will open at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Friday, February 7. It brings to the public the contact sheet, a peculiar component of Mark and Tina’s collection that they began to collect in earnest in the early 2000s.

Brand design exhibition banner for PROOF: Photography in the Age of the Contact Sheet on the front of Cleveland Museum of Art

The contact sheet was largely a product of the studio. After the photographer selected the final image, the sheet was allocated to storage and generally forgotten. It was part of the working process. It lived outside of public view.

Mark, however, had the foresight to envision a place for the contact sheet beyond the studio.

At the time of his death in 2014, he had acquired innumerous contact sheets from professional and novice photographers alike. He hadn’t just purchased sheets, however. He sought out photographers, making direct asks to purchase their proof sheets or, in some instances, asking them to create the sheets for his acquisition. He was drawn to the grid. He saw the contact sheet’s unique ability to demonstrate the narrative behind iconic photographs and illustrate the photographer’s individual process. The grid lays out a story that would otherwise be forgotten.

It was only after Mark’s death that Bill Griswold, director and president of the Cleveland Museum of Art, saw the collection. On a visit to the Schwartz and Katz home, Griswold saw the collection on the walls of their home and was immediately struck by its ability to bring out the story behind each photographer’s work. He saw what Mark saw.

Angled view of PROOF book design with acetate cover and Micheal Caine contact sheet

The Exhibition Book

N+S designed the book, which acts as a catalog of the exhibition and is available for purchase here.

The Cleveland Museum of Art often produces catalog for its exhibitions. However, PROOF is unique in its structure and design, and was a deeply collaborative process between N+S, CMA, and Peter Galassi, the exhibition curator and former chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art.

The book includes an essay by Galassi, entitled “Parting the Curtain,” as well as a foreword featuring letters from Griswold and CMA Trustee Fred Bidwell. It is divided into eleven sections: Hunting, Choosing, Cropping, Fame, Marilyn, Performers Performing, Photographers Photographed, Fashion + Glamour, Staged Spontaneity, Still Film, and Array. The first three sections highlight the photographer’s process, and the work that goes into selecting the perfect frame. The latter sections hone on key themes that run throughout the Schwartz and Katz collection.

PROOF book design spread, showing a contact sheet and the chosen frame, photographed by Larry Fink

PROOF is a beautiful, deeply engaging book. Our thoughtful design evokes elements of the photographic process. Everything from the size of the book—which was chosen to allow for the sheets to be set in a relatively large and proportionate size—to the List of Works were considered and constructed to provide an immersive experience. Our designers lived in the details of this design, and were able to create a unique, tactile experience that engages the reader from start to finish.

We’re deeply proud of the work that went into creating this book. Dedicated to Mark’s memory, it begins and ends with images of his own contact sheets. Look closely, and you’ll find him in the corners of those works. His arms reach across the page, forcing photo strips together to create his own contact sheet—itself a contact sheet of a contact sheet.

PROOF has been a labor of love for our team. We can’t wait to share it with you, and to celebrate Mark’s passion through the exhibition.

Brand design limited edition box set for PROOF, next to the book design with acetate cover