Bob Tursack, the CEO of the high-end printing company Brilliant Graphics, is in expansion mode. Eight months ago, Brilliant Graphics began an expansion to its Exton, Pennsylvania, facility that will add 38,000 square feet. A year ago, Tursack opened an additional facility on West 27th Street in New York, not far from the galleries that make up many of Brilliant’s clients. In addition, he started a publishing division about a year ago, and knocked it out of the park with his first book, Seldom Seen, by photographer (and renowned printer) George Tice.
A third-generation printer who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, Tursack became interested in photography when he was in junior high. He had his first darkroom in sixth grade and has attended the Ansel Adams workshops in Carmel, the Maine Photography Workshops, and other photography courses. “Every time you attend a workshop, you learn something,” he says. “You expand your repertoire and skill set.”
Tursack’s father founded Tursack Printing, commercial printers, in 1959, and Bob began training on the small press as a teenager. But his real passion was for fine art prints, and he ultimately sold the company to Consolidated Graphics in 1998. He took 18 months off, during which he spent time working with a children’s school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He started Brilliant Studio in 2000, in his basement, planning to make prints for artists and photographers as a one-man band. But the business quickly grew, and Tursack soon founded Brilliant Graphics as well, to produce brochures, catalogues, posters, and books. The company now has 72 employees.
Throughout the business’s various incarnations, the spirit of Ansel Adams has been an influential presence. “I was very interested in the technical side of photography and reproduction,” says Tursack, “and taking the zone system [Adams’s method for determining the correct film exposure] and trying to translate it into what we do here. I think the zone system provided me with a foundation for producing unparalleled black-and-white photography books.”
One of Brilliant’s clients is the auction house Swann Galleries, and Tursack mentions the thrill of looking at one photographic masterpiece after another to prepare the company’s auction catalogues. “The highlight,” he recalls, “was to hold in my hands a 30 x 40 inch Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico by Ansel Adams.”
Brilliant’s fledgling publishing division is an extension of Tursack’s dream to work with photographers to produce beautiful books. When he was thinking about opening his own publishing division, the first person he called was George Tice. “We were fortunate enough to be able to publish Seldom Seen,” he says. None of the photographs had been published in Tice’s previous books, though they explore some familiar territory. A special collector’s edition was published with a slip case and a piezo print inset into the front cover. “I don’t care if we do one title a year, or twelve titles a year, it has to be the right work at the right time,” says Tursack. “When a photographer makes a print, it’s a piece of his or her soul on the paper. You have to have respect for the process and the person.”