By Gene Laughter
Bromoil was one the favorite and beloved processes of the pictorialists and salon exhibition photographers during the first half of the twentieth century. No show of the photographic art of the pictorialists was without lovely, soft and painterly bromoil prints. Many of the leading gum printers of the day switched to bromoil and their influence was felt throughout the world.
The process is an offshoot of the oil process, which was a contact process and required a negative the same size of the completed print. E.J. Wall, of Great Britain, theorized that a smaller negative could be used and enlarged onto photographic paper provided the paper was properly bleached and tanned. Welborne Piper followed through with Wall's theory, tested and made this process work, and, thus, bromoil was born!
The process rapidly spread through Europe and the United States and bromoil supplies and special bromoil papers were readily available at most camera stores. After World War II, with the popularity of f/64 "straight photography," the supplies of bromoil supplies dwindled and the process eventually became obscure and almost obsolete.
Today, there is a bromoil revival. The Bromoil Circle of Great Britain conducts workshops in the U.K and interest bromoil in the U.K. is on the rise. In the United States and Europe, there are now many photographers learning the bromoil techniques techniques of yesteryear. The popularity of the Internet has opened the doors of communications between bromoilists and provided the impetus for the foundation of the International Society of Bromoilists, a group of photographers on the "net" with both an interest and experience in the bromoil process. The Internet has allowed these bromoilists to share techniques, assist beginners and to post their bromoil imagery for other bromoilists to see. As we approach the year 2000, bromoil is rising from the ashes of obscurity - it's the dawn of a new bromoil era!
Myth 1. Only special non-supercoated papers may be used for the bromoil process.
Totally untrue! Many of today's supercoated papers are excellent for producing bromoil prints.
Myth 2. Only specially crafted stag foot brushes may be used to ink a bromoil print.
Another myth! Many trim their own shaving brushes, pastry and basting brushes, faux finishing brushes, and others. Soft foam decorator's brushes may be used for bromoil inking.
Myth 3. Only expensive bromoil inks may be used in the process.
Most bromoilists today use lithography ink manufactured by Graphic Art and Chemical Company, Daniel Smith and others.
Myth 4. Only a "soft" negative can be used for the bromoil process.
Any negative that will print a good black and white print
may be used. Contrast may be added or lessened with the inking
Myth. No. 5 Only Amidol may be used for developing bromoil prints.
Many today use Kodal Dektol or Ethol LPD developers. Few, if any, use Amidol.