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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2011
If you are having trouble sleeping don't pick this one up for a quick fix. Christopher's knowledge and wit will keep you engaged. I have a good many other books on alternative processes and this is my "Go to" volume. For those with an interest in historic processes, regardless of your skill level, this important text needs to be in your library. Neither the First nor Second editions have been anything other than first rate sources of information. My second edition is beginning to show the signs having a little too much chemistry spilled on it and I may have to get another as my breadth of knowledge and experience expands, thanks to Mr. James.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2008
First a disclaimer. I helped on the cabon chapter and am the inventor of the Ziatype process, so I can hardly be called a neutral reviewer. However I do want to make a few comments.

Back in the late 70's another amazing book on this subject came out, Keepers of Light. It was an incredible achievement in its day but James's book exceeds it. Photo books come and go and only a tiny fraction ever get revised into a 2nd edition One would expect that after nearly 30 years the newer book having gone into a 2nd edition would be better, but this goes way beyond expectations. KOL was the spark that got me excited about process photography and to eventually start Bostick & Sullivan. I see this new book being a similar stimulus for young photographers to venture out into their own explorations of photography.

Christopher James should also be commended for not just producing a how-to book, but one that connects the modern day worker with the historical aspects of these processes. He covers the basic history of each process, which enlivens and adds to the fun of doing them. Did I say "fun?" Yeah, I did, and yes I know, we're supposed to be deadly serious about our art, but damn, this stuff is fun and you can't get away from that fact. That is also a theme that lies in the background throughout this book: art is fun.

Now this book is obviously targeted at the practicing photographer, but it deserves a much larger audience. Anyone interested in photography should read and have this book handy for a reference. Art and photo historians, collectors, curators, and folks that are just interested in photography will find their understanding of photography and photography's history enriched.

Perhaps now we will have fewer people making ink jet prints and calling them carbon prints. Ok, a personal peeve of mine. Sorry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2008
I have 2 well worn copies of the first edition of The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes - I have kept the book by my side while printing and teaching as not only a resource but an inspiration.

The second edition of the book is a bit heftier due to all the fabulous new chapters that have been added and still goes with me to my classes and studio. My students call it "The Bible" they use it not only for technical advice but to look at the work of many different Alternative Process artists. Seeing the variety of approaches to the medium of photography represented in this book has opened my students' minds to the idea of playfulness in image making.

Christopher James offers a wealth of technical knowledge in his book but not one ounce of it is presented in an intimidating way, each chapter opens up new possibilities for approaching the photographic image and creating unique, expressive and playful creations.

The final chapter, "Light Marking", is new to the Second Edition and is a wonderful tool for photography instructors (and anyone else who wants to discover a new approach to an often highly technical medium). It gives many suggestions and clues on how to use the spirit of play as a tool for teaching/learning.

If my review has not convinced you to check out a copy of the book then just look at the cover image... A dog balancing on a ball, how can you resist!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2011
If you have ever had any interest in alternative printing or working in the non tradition of wet darkroom work this is a must have. To think of giving a brief historical background, a full chemical proprieties list, and than giving in depth instruction of how to make the physical print of more than 10 process's is simply amazing to pack into one book. While reading you can really appreciate Christopher's passion for the hand made craft. He is able to explain these often complicated chemical prints in a easy and non intimidated manner. In a fully digitized world it is so refreshing to see a man fully dedicate himself to something alternative than the norm.

What I loved about this book is how nothing is left to the imagination, often times while reading technical instructional books there is always that little something that is left out that can really make the world of difference while in the studio. With James's book nothing is left to the imagination, anything that could go wrong or may go wrong he warns you off, and gives you insight on how to avoid that. I was amazed to see that he was able to top himself with the first edition, i very much look forward to the third edition.

As i write this review i look to the book case fondly at my battle tested personal copy stained all over with various shades of browns and blacks from chemistry and smelling like lavender varnish.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2008
I own three copies of this book, one for my home, one in my office, and a copy of the second edition. I am a photographer and educator and refer to this book at least twice a week. Christopher James writing style is both witty and engaging. The layout of the book is very clear, making it an easy to reference while working in the darkroom. There are many books out there on alternative processes; none I have seen is as user friendly or entertaining. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes includes many examples of each process by including inspiring works created by James, his students and photographers whose work he admires.

I have used the first edition as a textbook for the last 2 years in the experimental photography course I teach at my university. Last semester we ordered the second edition and I was very impressed by the changes. It is one of the few books my students don't want to sell at the end of the semester.

The new edition is an essential reference in the post-Polaroid world; it has expanded to include more detail in each chapter on digital negatives and gives some of the best and simplest advice I have found to date. It includes examples of curves and adjustments that work best for each process.

If you already have the first edition it is well worth the upgraded to second edition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2008
Christopher James, The Book Of Alternative Photographic Processes, Second edition is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. It is the definitive book on alternative photography, with six hundred pages of facts, formulas, and inspiration. Covering everything from making pictures with a box of air, to the digital arts. It covers: salted papers, calotype, negatives, printing with flowers and vegetables, cyanotype, gum, carbon, platinum / palladium, wet collodion, and gelatin dry plate.....and much more.
It is also a great history of photography book. Factual, witty, brilliant, and any other superlative that comes to mind is likely applicable. It is full of great ideas that will make you a favorite teacher, and is accessible to the beginning photographer as well. It is a treat to see a book that is so full of personality, written in a conversational style.
This second edition comes five years after the first, and was three decades in the making. It is completely rewritten, with hundreds of new images, and illustrations drawn for this edition. Christopher has taught photography for thirty plus years at Harvard University , and The Art Institute Of Boston, as well as hundreds of workshops.
If I could only have one photography book this would be it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2011
I officially recycled all my other alt-pro books when I found this one. Why recycle? Because I didn't want to risk circulating bad information out there. Before finding Christopher's book, I had been working in alternative process photography, some techniques learned in college, some in workshops, some self taught for 15 years.
From set-up to process to finish, this book gives me all the instruction and troubleshooting clues I need to complete a successful print. He takes the mystery out of the process while sharing his sense of humor (necessary in this line of work).
I especially like the historical attributes he offers and that I can get all of this in one book! Yes, it's hefty, I don't carry it around with me. But it is prominently displayed in my studio where I work.
When I replaced my first edition with the second, I wrote on the inside front cover: "This is the first edition, good information but there is a newer edition out there so FIND IT!" then took it to the thrift store in hope that someone interested in alternative processes will find it and get hooked.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2011
I started to explore the alternative (historic) photographic printing techniques approx. a year ago, and have learned lots of stuff by searching the net for information. I have also bought several books on the theme, but only this book had the information level I was searching. It is a thick book, and very structured. Great read too. So far I have only explored a few of the techniques described in the book, but it is a joy to read about all the other techniques. The author brings the techniques into perspective by starting each chapter with a historic overview. In this way, I have got a much better understanding of why and how the different techniques evolved. But most important: I get a much better understanding of how to make beautiful images printed in alternative techniques. Highly recommended.
I am running a blog on my personal experience with these techniques, and had to make a short review of the book on [...] Off course I gave it top score, which I also do here.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2011
Wonderful book! I have never had much success learning from books and had my doubts when I purchased this one. In buying the book my goal was to learn platinum, cyanotype, salt, and albumen printing. I succeeded in all four methods and many more. Christopher James writing is not only informative but entertaining, which is a rare combination. I am a professional photographer who was well versed in digital and darkroom printing but I wanted to expand my photographic toolbox and this book helped me achieve that. An outstanding resource!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2011
I have read a number of publications on antique or alternative photographic processes, and most are dry, dull, and highly formulaic. Each process is going to be different for each practitioner depending on his/her environment. Christopher James walks us through many (MANY) different processes by describing what is tried and true for him, but he is also careful to give alternative methods that have worked for many other well-known and respected artist/practitioners in regard to individual processes. He gives engaging historical lead-ins to each of the processes while letting the modern practitioner know that these processes are not just part of the past--they are current, exciting, "alternative" methods of creating beautiful photographs. He lets us know what chemicals or products worked in the past but may no longer be available, while listing the modern equivalents and how to purchase and use them. He also covers everything from paper types and prep to digital negatives. And, he manages to do all of this and more in a charming and engaging manner.

Funny, but my second edition, with post-its and other notes attached, happens to be sitting on the couch next to me as I type this. It is a wonderful reference, not only for the processes listed in the book (there are beautiful photographs throughout) but for the stories behind each as well.
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