Gene Laughter has been selected as the January Featured Porfolio on the APUG home page. Gene graciously took the time to answer some questions about his work. Thanks Gene!
Gene, how did you get started in photography?
I consider myself to be more of a printer of hand crafted images than that of a photographer. I have dealt with images since I was a child, doing pencil and crayon sketches, and then an education in graphic design followed by a career in advertising - as an art director and then later in the management of creative and marketing functions. Photography as an art form was was the result of searching for various means of creative expressions of imagery.
What drew you to Bromoil?
After early retirement I returned to college, taking graduate courses in photography. I became interested in the history of the photographic medium and a collector of vintage photographic books, prints and cameras. In my research I kept coming across old reproductions of "bromoil prints," which appealed to me visually, but it was a process of which my professors had little or no knowledge. The quest to learn more about the bromoil process became a challenge and I began seeking out old books with more information on bromoil. This quest for knowledge eventually led me to England, the birthplace of bromoil, and I had the opportunity to meet and resolve many of my questions with Norman Gryspeerdt, Maija McDougal and many other experienced and talented bromoilists. Finally, I was off and running with the bromoil process! For me, I love the hands-on brush application of inks, which tends to make the photographer and artist more a part of the final print and image. Bromoil is a control process and the original information in the negative can be changed, manipulated and made more painterly, which appeals to me.
How does one learn Bromoil?
Fortunately, today, with the internet, it's a bit easier than it was only a bit over a decade ago. When I took up bromoil, it was almost impossible to find anyone who had any experience in the process and there were no modern books on the subject. I learned bromoil in somewhat of a vacuum, having no experienced bromoilists to communicate with about modern materials and the many myths surrounding the process. It's a relatively inexpensive process and one doesn't need the expensive tools, like stag-foot brushes made from the hair of exotic animals, as often written about by writers who have never made a bromoil print. The best place to start is with a modern how-to bromoil book or manual. If one can find an experienced bromoilist it helps to view the actual making of a bromoil print. Bromoil workshops are taught from time to time around the globe and I would highly recommend taking one. Bromoil can be learned on your own, however. The process is not all that difficult, but has a somewhat steep initial learning curve and requires a committment of patience, persistance and practice. It's not a process that one reads a book and then immediatly starts cranking out high quality prints! Once one learns the basics of bromoil, we have an active global internet discussion group to share technical information and to keep abreast of materials changes of papers, etc.
What is your major accomplishment in the bromoil pocess?
Simple! It's the high caliber of work being produced by my former students! While I have taught many the bromoil process, I have learned from each and every student that I have worked with.
What camera format do you use for the negatives of your bromoil prints?
I have the camera collectors' disease and own far too many cameras! Bromoil is a process in which the negative can be enlarged in the wet darkroom onto photographic paper. I use 35 mm rangefinder Leicas, Canons, a variety of medium format Zeiss Super Ikonta folders and my favorites: vintage Rollei 120 twin lens reflexes.
How do you approach your work from a creative standpoint?
I try to deal with mood and feel and do not attempt to covey more visual information than the eye can handle. I am not too concerned about pin-point sharpness. My work often deals with serenity and the presence of absense and I keep this in mind when searching for subject matter. I try to keep all visual things managable and simple!
Who have been the major influences on your photographic art?
Oh, so many - both photographers and painters. Leonard Misonne, Man Ray, Andy Warhol, William Mortensen, Edward Hopper, Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Josef Breitenbach, Ray Johnson and host of others!
Here is a link to Gene's APUG portfolio: