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Alternative Photographic Processes - (Hand made photographic -emulsions and processes)

Processes - Bromoil from c.1910


The bromoil process is a modification of the oil process. It uses bromoil paper. The process was discovered and made practical by C Welborne Piper. The process has been used since around 1910, and is still practiced by a few dedicated workers. Other processes related to Bromoil are: 1. Bromoil Transfer Process - a means of producing multiple images from a bromoil original 2. Oleobrom Process - a process invented in the 1930s, designed to produce results similar to bromoil, but involving fewer steps. A roller is used instead of a brush to apply the ink to an Oleobrom image. Recent Work A few workers are still working with the Bromoil process today. They have formed at least on "Bromoil Circle" to discuss and show their work. One of the prominent workers is Kirk Toft. I attended one of his Bromoil workshops in Shipley, Yorkshire, England a few yeara ago. Process Create the Matrix The Matrix is the name given to the print that is to be inked in the bromoil process 1. Take a negative, preferably one that will give a contrasty bromide print. 2. Expose onto a sheet of bromide paper. Some brands work better than others. A tough smooth paper with thick coating is best. Kentmere Document Art double-weight is recommended, if available. 3. Develop slightly darker than normal, wash then transfer to a plain hypo-fixing bath. Hardener in the fix causes problems. 4. Wash thoroughly then dry without handling its surface. 5. Place in a bleaching bath. Early bromoil workers recommended many different formulae for the bleach. 6. Wash the print 7. Place in a weak sulphuric bath, then wash again. At this stage the print should have smooth swollen areas for the highlights and sunken matt shadow areas that will be able take up the printing ink. This print is known as the 'matrix'. Ink the Matrix 8. To prepare the print for inking, place it on a wet sheet of blotter in a tray, and remove excess water from the surface with a dry blotter. 9. If the print has been dried after fixing, soak it again for an hour or two before inking. 10. Take and 'thin' a high quality printing ink to soften it. The ink need not necessarily be black. 11. Apply ink to the surface with a brush designed for the purpose, using gentle dabbing and hopping techniques. Initially the print will be a mass of daubs and smudges, but continued application of the brush should reposition the ink to produce the desired result It is recommended to use hard ink first, hardening if necessary with Arrowroot, then softer ink later, for the highlights. 12. Hang in a dust-free atmosphere to dry. 13. When dry, remove all fluff, dust and hairs with a soft rag or brush. 14. Use a rubber and sharp knife to touch up. 15. Varnish (optional) and frame (optional). The bromoil description above is based on an abridged report in BJP of a Paper in the then current edition of Journal of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia. [BJP: 17+ 24 Mar 1911] Result Bromoil prints capture the atmosphere of a scene in a way that is not possible with conventional printing. They featured widely in photographic exhibitions and journals in the 1920s and 1930s. The process requires patience. Success is not guaranteed, but the chance of producing a successful print should improve with practice. JM Whitehead produced many atmospheric bromoil prints. Well over 60 of his original works were donated to the RPS soon after his death, and are now housed at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, in Bradford.



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