Reviving the Past


Through the enterprising efforts of accidental mysteries, I learned of the extraordinary work of Jill Skupin Burkholder and am completely enthralled. Burkholder works in a little known medium that was very popular with the Pictorialists during the first half of the twentieth century. Known as the Bromoil process, it is based on the oil print, a genre epitomized by soft, paint-like qualities.


To explain the bromoil process, it is helpful to look at the oil print first. The prints are made on paper with a thick gelatin layer that has been sensitized with dichromate salts. Exposure using a negative for contact-print leads to hardening of the dichromated gelatin, in direct relation of the amount of light received. After exposure, the print gets soaked in water. The non-hardened parts absorb relatively more water than the hardened parts, so after sponge-drying the print, while still moist, one can apply a lithographic ink to the oil-base.


The non-mixing character of oil and water results in a coloring of the exposed parts of the print, creating a positive image. The ink application requires considerable skill, and as a result no two prints are alike.

Marching Guards

Jill began working with photography in 1985 studying both traditional and digital photography and experimenting with various alternative photography techniques. She learned the bromoil process from Gene Laughter, a photographer who researched the technique by studying historical writings and interviewing members of The Bromoil Circle of Great Britain. She is a member of the International Society of Bromoilists, a small group of artists working in this elusive medium.

bromoil.Beds at Terezin

It’s not just the old photographic processes Burkholder uses— it’s her vision, her photographic eye. These images, which she took in various spots across the world, push ordinary objects into a dreamlike place. Part nightmare, part memory—Burkholder’s images are truly extraordinary.


Her images have been published in recent publications, Black and White Camera Craft by William Cheung and Art Business News, “Reborn Victorians.” Her bromoils have been exhibited throughout the U.S and can be found in private and public collections.

bromoil.Rain Girl





~ by eaesthete on 07/07/09.

One Response to “Reviving the Past”

  1. Captivating! I share your ardor for these mesmerizing images.

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