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Books Reviews

Fort Collins, Colorado
Comparisons of three SX-70 books by Lori Cartmell, Toronto, Canada

"Painterly Photography" by Elizabeth Murray. Pomegranate Art Books, 1993.

Painterly Photography This book contains beautiful examples of how to use SX-70 manipulation to produce Impressionist-like images (Murray has also authored the book "Monet's garden", and clearly favours painterly images). Many of the manipulated Polaroids in Murray's book have been handpainted as well, creating images which are very much like oil paintings. Murray provides a section at the back of the book describing tools and equipment which can be used for manipulations, a resource list suggesting where to obtain cameras or art supplies, and contact information for Polaroid. Also included are instructions on how to adapt a Polaroid 600 series camera to accept SX-70 film, and how to project slides onto SX-70 film using an enlarger. This book's main strength is the wonderful inspiration it provides through examples of Murray's exquisite images.

"Instant Photo/Instant Art" by Dominic Sicilia, Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, 1977, out of print.

Instant Photo/Instant Art This book provides a wealth of information on the actual technique of manipulating SX-70 images. Sicilia describes how manipulating the emulsion affects the fluidity and colour of the image, how the light and dark areas of the image respond differently to the process, and how each film batch differs in fluidity and colour rendition. He gives detailed information on using different treatments depending on what the subject matter is, and gives examples of what techniques to use on such subjects as buildings, seascapes, trees, flowers, people, cars, faces, etc. Sicilia also provides suggestions on how to expand the highlights in the image to add emphasis and how to add patterns to the background. This is by far the best book on the "how-to" of manipulating an SX-70 print.

"Creative Photo Printmaking" by Theresa Airey. Amphoto, 1996.

Creative Photo Printmaking This book contains a chapter on SX-70 manipulations, and also deals with Polaroid image and emulsion transfers, solvent transfers, liquid emulsions, etc. Like Murray's book, this publication also explains how to adapt a 600 series camera to accept SX-70 film, but Airey provides much greater detail as well as a series of photographs illustrating how to actually accomplish this. Similarly, Airey goes on for several pages describing how to use an enlarger to project slides onto SX-70 film, again providing pictures demonstrating what steps to take, whereas Murray covered this topic in a few paragraphs. Like Murray, Airey gives some information on handcolouring the manipulated print, and like Sicilia she notes that lighter colours in the image respond better to manipulation than do dark areas. Airey provides helpful information on how to warm up the print to facilitate manipulation, as well as how to freeze it if you need to delay working the image. She also gives good technical information on film and exposure if you choose to duplicate your manipulated SX-70 prints by making slides or negatives from them.

Availability of these books: Both "Painterly Photography" and "Creative Photo Printmaking" can be found at large bookstores or ordered from a local bookshop. They can be also ordered on-line from Amazon.com directly from these pages. Both are likely available at some university libraries or large public libraries. "Instant Photo/Instant Art," on the other hand, is out of print and not as easily located. An online bookstore such as Amazon might be able to find a used copy, or an inter-library loan service might be able to obtain a copy from another city for you.

Summary: "Painterly Photography" provides all the information a beginner needs to get started with SX-70 manipulations, and contains a gallery of beautiful images which many people credit with inspiring them to try their hand at this technique. For more detailed technical information, the chapter on SX-70 manipulations in "Creative Photo Printmaking" is an excellent resource. For those wanting in-depth information on ways to manipulate the image itself and a wealth of ideas on how to treat different subject matter, "Instant Photo/Instant Art" is an unparalleled resource and well worth tracking down.

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last updated: 1/5/2006 ... ... other web pages by Marek Uliasz ...