David Kohler
OTTO Brand Lab


DV is a printed publication that is the combination of photography, graphic design and illustration. A new theme is chosen for each issue with many talented individuals contributing to the publication. Much love and time is put into each unique issue. The printed publication is supported by a launch event in New York City.

OTTO has collaborated on multiple issues, with the most recent one being Dv4, entitled From Sustenance to Sensation. Dv4 explores New York City food––from restaurants to butchers. The issue captures the beauty of food and explores where it comes from. David Kohler, one of the collaborators of DV, talks about the creative role OTTO had in contributing to the fourth issue of the publication.


Where did the inspiration for DV come from?


DV—or DVice as it used to be known—DV was started by Steve Pandolfi and Don Terwilliger from DCC. They asked us to take over the third issue, which was about New York City after dark, and also the fourth issue, which we created together.. Steve asked us to join because his vision was to really push the idea, conceptually push the idea on a different theme.

Every issue is about New York City, and it’s always an expression of the visual arts, primarily photography, but we also mix in illustration. So it’s really a celebration of imagery—a theme, New York City imagery—and printing. And also digital media, too, as we started bringing that in. So it’s really printing that is part of a whole interactive experience, one way or the other.

For every issue, we focus on a different topic, and then we find photographers, illustrators and partners that we are interested in working with. And we have them go out and do their own interpretation of a given theme. 


How did you decide on the theme for Dv4?


For DV4, the theme was food. And we really wanted to have a broad view of food in New York City. We wanted to go high and low and really make sure we covered everybody. We went everywhere from high-end restaurants to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

And we also looked at where food comes from. We looked at butchers, and we also went to the Fulton Fish Market. We went to butchers all across the five boroughs, and mainly family-owned ones with a long history.


What went into the production of Dv4?


The production was quite important. DCC, they’re retouchers, really high-end image specialists, and then also printers. One of the things we wanted to do is also really push the production of each DV.

For DV4, we did a really interesting binding technique, where we took the kind of cardboard you use inside of books, but we used the raw cardboard. We took black book tape, and used that to bind the hinges. It was three pieces of cardboard that we bound with black book tape, and then with a white stamp, we stamped the logo for DV4 on top of it. Within that, each book was an individual book, and they came in different forms: some folded out, some are perfect bound.

The one for the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, each page of the book was slit into three, so you can change the different aspects of it and create faces, because the idea there was everybody benefits who works with the organization, so we wanted to be able to switch people’s faces and combine them. This showed how everybody fits together, which you can imagine was a nightmare to make. We try to push everything that way. Each book is different, and then we held the whole thing together with an industrial rubber band around it, and then the whole thing was wrapped in butcher paper. We took books to a butcher in Brooklyn and had them wrap the books for us, so then we could take that—because there’s a way butchers wrap things; it’s so special that we want to make sure we got it right. They wrapped three books for us, and we took it back to the production crew at DCC and we said, “Okay, match the way this is folded.”

Steve Pandolfi, being as crazy as he is, wanted to wrap it with butcher paper, but we wanted to also print on butcher paper. We printed on white butcher paper, and then we glued that to brown butcher paper. So the whole thing is wrapped with brown butcher paper, but when you open it up, there’s images printed on it, which was a big fold-out poster with all kinds of pieces of meat. It’s interesting, because the designer who worked on it is a vegetarian and she was having so much fun with these raw pieces of meat.

When you unwrap the edition and see pieces of meat, it sets the tone for a little bit of shock. You want people to know you’re going to see something different. First of all, it’s beautiful, so in the end, nobody would say it was just for shock value. But you also want to wake people up and say, “Okay, this isn’t going to be your normal experience.

With the production, we push it in every way we can. We did duotones on a digital press, which you’re not supposed to be able to do. We did all sorts of things as far as pushing the printing.

Printed Edition of Dv4


Did you encounter any challenges while working on Dv4?


Pizza was an interesting one. Pizza has been covered in New York City in so many ways. I mean, there’s a website called “The Slice”, which is kind of quintessential as far as pizza goes. Not all places serve pizza by the slice. Coal oven places don’t serve it by the slice. The Slice is a pretty great place, and there’s a lot of great websites and blogs about pizza. So we thought, “We can’t compete with that.”

What we did was bring in a photographer, Todd Boebel, who’s a photographer/historian. And what we wanted him to do was research pizza, particularly coal-oven pizza, and its origin, because we thought, “Now, this will be a more interesting way to approach it. Where is the best pizza, why?”. We got into coal-oven pizza, and Coney Island is where the best ones were.

We also focused on Totonno’s in particular. Todd researched Totonno’s immigration papers, the start of the business, the history of it. The Italians all moved to Coney Island, and Brooklyn in general, because they weren’t happy with the quality of the vegetables, and they wanted to grow their own. A lot of them moved out of the city to the end of the subway lines in Coney Island, and they grew their own gardens. That’s why all of these great pizza places and Italian restaurants are out in Brooklyn.

For the Dv4 release event, it took place in one night. Because we had it at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, it had to come down the same night, because it’s a soup kitchen: the next day, they’re feeding people. Every year, we have to design a system that can be constructed and torn down in the same night. The video we have shows that. We did a time lapse of the whole thing, so you can see the assembly and the disassembly and the pack-out within the time-lapse video on the DV NYC. Yeah, that’s a big part of the artas well. Our installers for the event were incredible. They had a few surprises that we had to deal with on the spot that they just completely…not only worked around, but ended up making it look intentional, the way it came together.

It’s also a challenge sometimes to blow up some of these images into large sizes. We’ve had photographers for whatever reason have worked in film, where we had to work from 35-millimeter negatives, and blowing those up that big without them getting too insanely grainy is difficult stuff, but DCC has always does an amazing job pulling it all off.

We gave out a series of placemats. One of the big things that every New Yorker knows is takeout food. That’s what we did. We were at Rick Burda’s studio, we ordered food, and we photographed all of the food. We videotaped the guys as they delivered it and put a QR code on the back of each menu, so that you could hold the phone up to the QR code, and you could not only see the delivery, but you could see how much it cost and where it came from.


Why is it important to capture certain aspects of a city’s culture?


Well, for us, we love New York City, and if we can, we want to find interesting aspects of it that will pique people’s interest.

We always look for something interesting and want to make it interesting for ourselves, too. We’re all hardcore New Yorkers—particularly Steve and I. We want to learn, too, and don’t usually go to things we know really well. We try to go places we’ve heard of, people have recommended, that we don’t know. And that allows us to learn and really come into the project with a fresh pair of eyes.

Food is such an interesting part of culture, because it gets closer to the family, it gets closer to home. It gets to a lot of really interesting traditions, and that’s part of the neat thing about it, is really getting to explore New York. It’s more about the story as well. It’s also about the place and how we could document it. There’s lots of reasons why we decide where we’re going to go. And sometimes it’s a personal connection.

We wanted to cover soul food, as well as different types of ethnic food, so we went to Sylvia’s in the Bronx, Chinatown…a whole broad range of New York City restaurants to really capture all of it.

David Katzenstein did a piece on street signs, which was really a lot of fun, and the typography and the signs and everything that go with food. We featured hand-drawn and manufactured signs,

One of everybody’s favorite things about Dv4 was that within it, we had the lyrics to the Mister Softee ice cream song, which most people don’t even know are lyrics to the Mister Softee song. Everyone on the team knew it, because we hear it from Mister Softee ice cream trucks traveling all over the city. That was a huge hit.



What are some factors you have to consider when photographing in NYC?


Sometimes danger, depending on where we were going, because some of these things happen in places that are not necessarily fit for photography. Respect is always important. People are really gracious when you respect them and you treat them properly.

We usually go in very light, because we don’t know what to expect, but we know we’re going to have to be agile. These are usually photoshoots that we don’t get to scout, so we can’t take a ton of equipment with us. We also want to be prepared, so it’s really being smart about how we approach it and how we pack. We really have to be ready to adapt and shoot whatever there is to shoot. These aren’t staged productions, so what we encounter is what we document. We then have to figure out some way to put it into a cohesive theme, not just an arrangement, but we try to have a photographic theme as well.

Some photographers love it. Most do. On DV3, our good friend, Lorne Bridgman, who’s a fantastic photographer. He’s the kind of photographer that walks around with his hammer and chisel as if he was a sculptor and finds the perfect shot, and that’s the one he gets. When we took him out and we decided to wing it, he did the most incredible job, but he told me it was one of the most stressful nights of his life, and he really would rather not do it again. In the end, he took amazing photographs, to his credit. It’s not always everybody’s way of shooting. Some people like more control.

We have done still life photography. At times, we give the photographers a lot of room for their interpretations. There are some who will do it in a manner that suits their style more. A friend of ours is a close friend of David Burke. She arranged for David to have one of his chefs prepare every dish on the menu for us, and allow us to photograph them all for a super-long lunch. Sometimes it works out really wonderfully. Sometimes we’re in bizarre, different situations. That particular shoot was a wonderful one. But every one of them comes through, but we have to find connections into these places. Sometimes it’s a cold call; sometimes it’s somebody we know.

One of our photographers had a friend who owns a restaurant, who has a fish supplier, who basically got us in through his business, because you can’t just go into the Fulton Fish Market. He got us in.

The Big Launch Event