The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes

While Arentz’s work is phenomenal in its focus on Platinum and Palladium Printing, on the other end of the spectrum is a compendium covering many alternative processes. Perhaps the most comprehensive recent text is Christopher James’s satisfying The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes.

Christopher James seems to be a throwback to the early, heady days of the practioner/technician/instructor. His book goes between the history, the art and the making of images by a wide variety of processes much as texts published by Scovill and others did at the turn of the 19th century. The history that James has to draw on is quite a bit longer however.

I must confess that I am a devourer of history and the people that make it. Maybe it was in James’s first edition that I came across the reference to Anna Atkins in the chapter on Cyanotypes. Regardless, James does the material to right by acknowledging the priority of Atkins’s lovely work British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

Profusely illustrated, with many examples of work in the respective processes (which the reproductions suggest but in no way replace the need for you to see original images printed in the process to fully appreciate their beauty). 
James keeps the tone light and the pace snappy. The format is clear (identifying alternate methods, and the material needed listed up front followed by detailed if humorous instructions):
16 large eggs
Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks (like the top of a Starbuck’s latte). If you are being true to this idea of tradition, you will be using a bundle of quills to whip the albumen. If you don’t have time to pluck a goose, use an electric blender wand.
This reader will never be able to try all these processes – but I’m certainly going to have fun attempting to do so.

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