Anna Atkins – ‘Cyanotypes of British Algae’ gallery

Anna Atkins - 'Cyanotypes of British Algae' (1843) - Chordaria flagelliformisWe appreciate more than just selling seed and plants here at Arkham’s Botanical, so thought we’d start adding the occasional bit of plant-related art and photography to our website to show off our good taste. This month, we present selected ‘cyanotype’ plates taken from a book by Anna Atkins (1799-1871), English botanist and – arguably – the first ever female photographer…

Atkins’ ‘Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions’ was first published in 1843 (as a handwritten edition of thirteen), after she met Sir John Herschel (the inventor of cyanotype printing) and William Henry Fox Talbot (a pioneer of early photography). This meeting caused Atkins to become interested in the cyanotype technique, which she then used to produce the hauntingly beautiful images of her book’s titular algae species. Atkins would later make use of the process in collaboration with botanist Anne Dixon (1799-1864), publishing ‘Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns’ (1853) and ‘Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns’ (1854).

The cyanotype process: An object is placed onto ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide-treated paper, then exposed to sunlight before being washed in water, turning all the uncovered areas of the paper a dark blue colour. Now you know where architectural and engineering ‘blueprints’ originated from!

Click on a thumbnail for the full-size gallery/slideshow

Now that we’ve whet your appetite, browse our range of cactus plants and seed!