Alvin Langdon Coburn was one of few photographers who enthusiastically embraced the photogravure process to produce his own books and exhibition prints. He produced two striking books, "London"(1909) and "New York " (1910). Each were illustrated with 20 rich photogravures of impressionistic images of the respective city. For both publications, he personally prepared the printing plates, exposing, etching and steel-facing them. He then pulled proofs until he obtained a perfect specimen for his printer to match. Coburn closely watched as the prints were editioned.
Coburn worked primarily as a portrait photographer and book illustrator, pursuits that frequently complimented each other. In his early twenties, he befriended British writer George Bernard Shaw, who happily introduced Coburn to many of his colleagues. Coburn subsequently illustrated books by G. K. Chesterton, Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson and H. G. Wells. Coburn illustrated 25 books between 1904 and 1965, most of them with his high-quality photogravures. In 1908, he made a revealing self- portrait working at his own copperplate printing press-the quintessential photographer-printmaker.