In today’s world of digital photographic manipulation, the idea of altering images is the norm. This exhibition features work by members of the Bromoil Circle using a process that involves changing images yet using a technique that originated from the Oil Process, which was patented in 1855. Later in 1907, C. Wellbourne Piper worked out a formula for the Bromoil process, which is still practiced today.
The method briefly, is that the silver contained in gelatine in a bromide print is bleached away and at the same time, the gelatine is hardened according to the amount of silver it contained. It is then fixed, washed and dried, after which it is re soaked to condition the gelatine and then all surplus water is removed.
A greasy ink, such as lithographic ink, is then applied by brush and is accepted where the gelatine has hardened (the shadow areas) but is rejected where the gelatine has swollen (the highlights). Thus the original image in the bromide print is built up so that the silver image is now an ink image and far more permanent.
By judicious application of ink, the bromoil worker has fine control over the final image. The bromoil process was much favoured by pictorial workers of yesteryears and is now once more gaining in popularity.
The Bromoil Circle Postal Club was formed by the late A.C Weller in 1931, who became a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 1934. Later the club was renamed The Bromoil Circle of Great Britain. It was established during a period known as the ‘Pictorial Photography Period’ when the pigment printing process had become very popular amongst photographers. The club was formed with 18 members, the same number as it has today. Initially the club existed as a postal club, as many groups did in those days. Today the Circle still adopts the same method of circulating prints etc, but meetings for members and interested parties are also held in an effort to keep this fascinating technique alive and appreciated.
During the early 20th century the Bromoil Process was a very popular process with an array of materials to use, a far cry from todays situation, as very few papers are now manufactured, suitable for the process.
In fact up to the late sixties the Bromoil Process remained very popular, but then with changes within photographic practices and the demise of suitable materials, the number of practitioners fell. During the 1990s, due to serious efforts from Circle members, bromoiling began to arise from the brink of extinction and is still flourishing today amongst this small group.
Workshops and exhibitions are held throughout Great Britain and publications on the process have been produced.
The Circle has an important archive collection running into several hundred outstanding images from some of the best bromoilists from Great Britain. An archive of the images of Sam Weller is held in The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, as part of the Royal Photographic Societies Collection.
SEE DEMONSTRATIONS OF BROMOILING Aug 9th, 11th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 22nd, 24th and 25th. (One in the morning and one in the afternoon).
Images: © Josef Jindřich Šechtl