Category Archives: alternative processes

Why bromoil?

I’d like to tell you a story. About why I love to do bromoils. I had a wonderful chance to see a fantastic exhibit of pictorialist photography here in Vancouver, a couple of years ago. It was the TruthBeauty exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Pictorialist photographs from about 1835 to 1945 were on show and they were fascinating. The premise of the pictorialists was to use photography to create art, not simply record what they saw realistically, but what they envisioned. Many different printing processes, now called alternative processes, were used to produce fantastic works of art. I fell in love. The images, the visions expressed, the interesting printing methods, all spoke to me of what photography could be. And in our digital age, so much of photography ends up seeming the same in the end, an exact as possible realistic rendering that all blends together after you’ve seen so many.

One process in particular stood out for me. Bromoil printing. I had to find more out about it. To give the short answer, bromoil involves bleaching a black and white print, and then stippling on layer after layer of ink to bring it back. You can achieve a wonderful etching like quality to a print that has a luminous depth or even a highly photographic style rendering, depending on your technique. It offers a great deal of control over your print, creative freedom in producing your print, and the satisfaction that comes of handcrafting something beautiful.

I love the unique look of a bromoil print. For me, the prints have a different feel to them. They produce an emotional response beyond just the subject matter. I love the historical connection. I am using a process that is over a hundred years old. My teacher learned from masters of the process and there is this long unbroken line of learning stretching back into the past. Also, wonderful historic processes used with modern photography allow us to connect directly with the past, something that is lost so often in our high tech digital world. 

Crafting your photograph in general, directly making the print by hand is a tie to the past that digital technology has robbed us of. Creating images this way allows us to appreciate the beauty of something handcrafted, another castoff from our mechanized age. And the rarity these days of these processes, of handcrafted works of art in general, especially with photography, allow us to create something that truly is unique.

If you’d like to see some prints, I’ve posted some of my images earlier. This is the link

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Second group show opening Saturday in Vancouver

Awesomeness. I have managed to get two images accepted to a second juried group show here in Vancouver. This is pretty exciting for me, as these shows are my first attempts. The show opens this Saturday, Feb. 5th at the Vancouver Darkroom Co-op Gallery. You can pop over to 652 Kingsway (at Fraser St.) for the 7pm opening if you are in town.

If you can’t make it, here’s a preview.

If you’re wondering what this is, its the remnants of a shipwreck, the Peter Iredale, on the Oregon coast. These are lith prints on Foma Chamois fibre paper, beautiful creamy coloured paper that for Foma, gave me some wonderful, subtle colours with the lith process.

Are you also wondering what the heck lith is? Well, its a black and white printing process where the paper developer is based on lithographic film developer and the combination of papers and developer chosen can give you a wide range of colours. The basis of the look, besides colour, is great detail in the highlights and gritty blacks. The fun of it comes from substantially overexposing the print under the enlarger, (this controls the highlights) and leaving it in the developer until the blacks reach just the right point and immediately tossing it in the stop bath without waiting for the print to drain. You do this as the blacks develop through a process called infectious development where they start off slowly and the development speeds up exponentially as you go. If you were to leave the paper in the developer til completion, the image would go completely black because you have overexposed it an average of 2-4 stops. So you have a minute time frame to choose just how you want the print to look and your never quite sure at the start how it will go. 


This is just one of the wonderful things I love about darkroom work in general. Creative, fun processes that always have a lovely element of surprise waiting to be discovered.

See you on Saturday.

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New Lith Prints

I’ve made a set of 4 lith prints recently, as I wanted to submit them for the Vancouver Darkroom Co-op call for entry for the latest exhibit. This is the first time I’ve submitted work for a juried group exhibition and in fact, for the first exhibition at all. I’ve haven’t found yet whether they’ll be accepted, but we’ll see how it goes.

Creating a set or series of images is something that I’ve not done much and I suspect that’s the case for many photographers. Unless you have a specific project in mind, it’s not something you may think of. As an exercise, this is something I’ll be trying the next time I go shooting and you might want to think about it too. When I see something that really catches my eye, I’ll either look for similar items that I can put with it as a theme, such as close ups of flowers framed the same way or multiple shots from different angles and views of a single plant for example. Another option would be images of related items that can make a theme such as shadows or reflections. As long as you can shoot them in the same style, you can relate the images. Shooting with at least three or more images together will get you enough to at least do a triptych.

These images are of the Peter Iredale, or at least the remains, of a shipwreck on the Oregon Coast. I tried a new paper, Fomatone Classic Cream base Chamois finish paper. The fibre based paper is actually a very deep cream colour, almost a light beige. It has a nice, lightly textured finish and with the lith chemicals I use, Moersch Easy Lith, has nice subtle colours, at least for Foma paper. You’ll have to excuse the lines, my scanner is not doing too well these days.

lith 001.jpglith 002.jpglith 003.jpglith 004.jpg

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With ink and a brush

I just got back from a 6 day workshop on how to do bromoil prints. For those unfamiliar with this alternative process, you take a black and white image, bleach it back, then while damp use said ink and brush and carefully stipple on ink, layer after layer, and where the silver was in the image, it now takes ink proportionally, and you build back the image in ink.

It’s a wonderful process that gives you a great deal of control and creative freedom on how you create an image. Depending on softness of ink, your technique, brushes etc you can control how grainy you want the image from a coarse lithographic style to a very fine grained photograph. You control density by deciding how much ink should be deposited, and you control how much you want the highlights to stand out. Contrast is also something you control in the final image. It’s a technique that lends itself to sensitive interpretation of a subject beyond just what the camera records.

The instructor, David Lewis is one of the few remaining masters of this process and an excellent teacher. He’s also quite the character and keeps the workshop entertaining. He gives workshops primarily down in the U.S. If you are lucky, try and get in on one down in Arch Cape, Oregon.

It was gorgeous there, right down on the beach. Our host was Linda Lapp Murray, who is a wonderful lady and fantastic photographer. Arch Cape is near Cannon Beach, but a bit off the beaten path, so the weather was great, scenery gorgeous, and it was quiet and peaceful.

Here’s a few examples from the workshop as well as a couple of pictures of Arch Cape.









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Blue in the sunlight

What turns blue in the sunlight? Cyanotypes! Also known as sunprints or solarprints, this is one of the simplest processes to get a photographic image without using a darkroom.
Yesterday was fun in the sun with friends exploring this colourful process. Lovely lush yard, good food, company and play. What more could you ask for on wonderful Saturday afternoon?

Cyanotype is a simple process. Mixing two chemicals, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, the resulting solution is brushed on paper in dim light indoors. Then you place a negative or items for photograms on the paper, and expose to the sun. After about 30 min, wash them for about 10 and where you blocked the sun, the paper stays white and the rest turns blue. If you don’t want to mess with chemicals, you can buy precoated paper kits. This is great kid friendly exploration and hey, you can teach them a little about science and photography as you go, if you are so inclined.

This was our first outdoor social and photo event with the Vancouver Darkroom Co-op. We are holding these regularly and they are not just for darkroom members. We did colour photograms our first night. Friends are very welcome. Looking forward to our next get together next month.

Here’s a few images. If you want to know more about cyanotypes, drop me a line.

 

 

 

 

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