Category Archives: bromoil

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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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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