U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Warning re Christopher James book

Warning re Christopher James book

I finally got through the week's mess (don't ask!!) and a quiet time to open this book, which I soon realized was dangerous. I felt myself getting sucked in, not just here and there, but all over the place, it taking an enormous effort of will to regain, what shall I say?, "consciousness" !

In other words, I recommend it. The thing itself manages despite humongousness (some 600 pages) to feel good in the hand, also, given the givens of size, to lie relatively flat on the table. Needless to say, the illustrations are themselves an education, tho they too can suck you in -- to a process you hadn't intended to do, one you think you'll do better, or an idea of a place you really want to go. I also liked the history for each process... coming across not as "lesson," but helpful context.

Another thing that makes this and the first edition so successful is that (unlike many "experts") James has had the sense to have other experts vet his chapters. My experience with these books and articles again and again (especially tho by no means limited to Photoshop/digital) is that the expert thinks the info is on the page because it's in his/her head -- but it isn't. James got backup.

Which is not to say there weren't frustrations:

We expect & get great alt photos, now, by the way including David Hockney (who knew he was alt?!) and Bea Nettles, list stars like Chris Anderson, even Post-Factory stars like Carmen Lizardo, among -- I don't have the count, but hundreds.

The unsung sort-of "tech drawings" were a surprise, however, cute little drawings to illustrate the set-ups (tho I would NEVER tell Christopher James that "set-up" as a noun deserves a hyphen, otherwise it tends to read as verb/adverb). Speaking as a former illustrator myself, I found them charming, clear, helpful, not show-offy, but still stylish -- relieving the text info while adding info at a glance, which is to say, perfect on the page. I was annoyed however (either at myself for missing it or the designer for hiding, even possibly omitting it) when I couldn't find an attribution. Who did these little gems?

In sum, the book strikes me as a tool of the trade, in a sense like dictionary/encyclopedia for a writer. And unlike regular "photography" books, which are obsolete when the factory materials change or vanish, these processes are already obsolete, thus timeless. (What a relief !)

So congratulations to James, and an advisory to practitioners, present and future: I'm not sure what the current price is, but...it's worth it.