PHOTON March 1995 Edition

Gryspeerdt's black gold

In the first of our planned series on alternatives to conventional photographic processes, Jon Tarrant goes prospecting in front of his TV

THERE are two ways to review a video. One is sitting in a comfortable chair, with the remote control unit on one arm-rest, a notebook on the other and a hot cup of tea steaming on a nearby table. The other is as a student watching the video to learn what it has to teach. In view of the instructional, rather than purely informative nature of the tape, it was in the latter manner that I approached the video reviewed here:
"Gryspeerdt and the Bromoil Process".

Bromoils are made by inking conventional b/w prints from which the visible silver image has been bleached away. What remains is a relief of gelatin on paper, and it is on to this that the ink is applied. Those with a knowledge of alternative printing processes may spot a similarity between the gelatin/relief idea and some other methods. GryspeerdtÕs video, after an interesting run-through of some fine bromoil examples, spends a short while putting this technique into its historical context.

The mechanics of the process are then explained in general. Negatives with plenty of shadow detail are recommended; it is suggested that the starting print should be on a non-supercoated paper. A supercoat is a layer applied to the top of papers to prevent stress damage. The best-known non-supercoated paper is Kentmere Document Art.

After about ten minutes of generalities, Gryspeerdt observes that the crucial inking process cannot really be described, it can only be demonstrated. Here is where the power of video comes into its own. Watching a bromoil print appear in stages is an education in itself. Had I simply read about it, then done my first inking and got an indistinct initial result, I would have been convinced that the process wasn't working. But by watching the video and seeing how repeated soaking and inking causes the picture to build up, it becomes possible to appreciate that what was at first a messy blur can turn into a worthwhile finished image.

Bromoil prints are not finished when the inking is done. The video spends about one-third of its one-hour running time showing how an example was locally darkened and lightened to produce a more harmonious final result. If you really want to learn how to do bromoils, you'll already be intending to buy the video - especially at just £22.45 (UK) including postage and packing. If nothing else, this price shows how cheaply a high quality video can be produced and serves to highlight the degree to which certain other video makers are stinging photographic punters.

But the crunch of any instructional package (there is a very brief but incredibly useful information sheet supplied with the video), is how well it manages to get its information across. I had never attempted a bromoil print before I watched the video, but felt fully charged to do so afterwards.

It may not be the greatest result, but the picture shown here (30Kb JPEG, full page size) really is the first bromoil I have ever done. In my opinion, the video definitely works.

I do, however, have a minor criticism. Before attempting a bromoil print it is necessary to obtain a suitable brush and some ink. It is also necessary to make up a bleach for the prints. I would like to see all these items, or at least the first two, included in a kit with the video. This would increase the price, so it would be necessary to offer the video alone for those who have already acquired the hardware - but a complete kit would make the most of viewer's initial enthusiasm.

Suppliers of paper, brushes, inks and chemicals are all listed on the information sheet, though Intaglio has now moved to 62 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0AS; tel (+44) 171 928 2633. The video comes with an offer of feedback on problems and successes from Norman Gryspeerdt himself. All that is asked for is return postage. This is furthering and promoting photographic knowledge in the best tradition, to be thoroughly applauded. Congratulations to Norman, Colin Westgate, and Eastbourne Photographic Society.

Copies of "Gryspeerdt and the Bromoil Process" can be obtained from: Colin Westgate FRPS, 2 Marine Parade, Seaford, East Sussex BN25 2PL, UK. Cheques, for £22.45 including p&p within the UK, should be made out to Eastbourne Photographic Society. Interested parties elsewhere in the world should write to Colin. We'll add e-mail addresses if available during the life of this article in PHOTON.

Jon Tarrant writes regularly for PHOTOpro, but he's just been appointed editor of our esteemed rival Hot Shoe, so we'll have to wait to see whether this new series can continue. If not, we'll try to find an alt. alt. author...