Precious Resources

Books on alternative processes have a fairly small audience in the greater scheme of things, and once out of print can become as precious as the cost of materials for the process itself.

While teaching a platinum printing with digital negatives class with Kim Weston this weekend I mentioned that the bible for the process is Dick Arentz’s recently out-of-print book Platinum and Palladium Printing, Second Edition. My friend, Ken, was helping out and while we were talking went to order the book on Amazon and remarked “That book is now going for $400.”

I had mentioned before that alternative process texts go out of print. Once out of print, the prices for formerly small edition runs can sky rocket. Mike Ware’s Cyanotype: The History, Science and Art of Photographic Printing in Prussian Blue has at least come down from $300 a copy on the used market to a more reasonable $150. Similarly the survey of new practitioners of alternative process, the well-written and illustrated Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes, by Lyle Rexer, has come down to a more approachable $215 from a formerly higher price. Of course all of these prices are many times the original of under-$50-per-copy of my purchases while in print.

For instructive texts, I hope that alternative methods of delivery (eBooks) will breathe new life into recently out of print works and make them available to the practitioner. But call me old fashioned, I like to have some books at ready in hard copy as I consider a new process. Many eBooks present poor images (or eliminate plates entirely) in eBook form compared to their hard copy brethren. The illustrations are often necessary to understand a technique. Well-rendered examples in print of how an image should look (as in Arentz’s book) level set one’s expectations of a process if in lonely pursuit.

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