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January 31, 2004

Cheaper Photo Books, B&W Cross Processing and More

I posted numbers a few days ago in my post Some Interesting Numbers that quoted from an article referencing Steidl's costs for publishing a photography book...I got a fair amount of feedback indicating the numbers were startling or humbling or depressing depending on your point of view.

Ag Magazine's latest issue refers to a considerably cheaper option for independent artists and adventurous book buyers with smaller wallets...the "on-demand" photobook, available in smaller runs (about 200 to 300 copies typically) and generally affordable prices. Ag's article refers specifically to John Gossage's Dance Card, which is available for 31 Euros from One Star Press...check out their interesting website, which has numerous artist books available, though I wish they'd provide a little more information on the artists and more of a preview of what you would get from the artist with the book.

It's very encouraging to see this, though, and the modest runs and simple presentation do tend to provide the feeling of greater intimacy with the artist relative to the fatter, more expensive and more heavily marketed books in bookstores currently. A look around One Star's website also shows that movies are available, though pricing for movies on demand looks much more onerous: a limited edition DVD from Tina Barney (known for her striking portraits and snapshot style tableaux of her family using large format) is 500 Euros for 15 minutes worth of video---ouch!

I've referenced cross processing with color slides and negatives in a couple of my previous posts, and as it turns out, there's an interesting twist on cross processing using Polaroid 8x10 film: combining 809 color negative Polaroid film with 804 black and white to produce a sepia image...this is known as "Polaroid Chocolate" and has been used most prominently by Sports Illustrated's Walter Iooss to photograph a series of prominent professional football players. This old thread from Photo.net discusses the process briefly and Tracey Storer, a Polaroid expert, provides an example and a description of the process. Some of these portraits can be seen on Iooss' own website (look up portraits and football)...I've seen the images in print and they are quite stunning, even for those who hate American football and plan to be far, far away from the television this Sunday.

I hope to be start shooting 8x10 in the next couple of months, and though Polaroid 8x10 film is outrageously expensive, this looks like a fascinating process...though I may try to find people who've tried it first, or simply stick with good old, smelly sepia or brown toning with fiber prints for the time being.

Speaking of fiber prints, I mentioned yesterday that I had hit the darkroom and enjoyed the ability to dodge and burn to my heart's content to create at least viewable prints out of less than viewable negatives. The other side of the story, of course (one the digital only shooters will never have to face) is dust spots, which require the evil process of spotting the print...much more tedious than using the Photoshop clone tool. One of my prints was particularly affected...so I scanned it, and it was easy enough to work with and produced a surprisingly decent looking result. The other image, though, simply looked better in fiber than in pixels.

Here's the scan of one of the shots, a travel grab shot taken last summer in Prague with a Zeiss Super Ikonta:


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