A Selection of Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins

Anna Atkins was an English botanist and photographer best known for her work with the early photographic process, the cyanotype. In October 1834, Atkins made history when she self-published her cyanotype photographs of algae in the book, “Photographs of British Algae”. This marked the first photographic work accomplished by a woman, as well as the first book produced in its entirety through photographic means.


Where do pictures go when you erase them?
Gum bichromate and cyanotype

My parents got divorced around the same time that I started my first serious relationship. I have a very distinct memory of taking their polaroid and watching my last picture of them together develop when they told me the news.

As a person who documents nearly everything, it’s bizarre that there’s almost no images from the early months of my relationship. Everything made me feel guilty - all the tiny little details of each of other, of our rooms, our time together, felt wrong. My parents’ split heavily affected the way that I looked at my own relationship, and the way that I photographed it.

Does a photograph make something real?
Does a photograph make something permanent?
Where do pictures go when you erase them?

These images were taken now, looking back almost two years at the things that I was too uncomfortable and scared to make pictures of. They were glitched in TextEdit, then printed in gum bichromate and cyanotype.



It started as a mistake, transformed workflow for architects, and revived Japanese print-making.

Created as a result of mixing blood, potash, and iron sulfate while trying to make red cochineal dye, Prussian blue was announced officially in 1710. 

Paper covered with ammonium ferric citrate plunged into potassium ferricyanide turned Prussian blue and preserved the image of objects set on top of the paper in the process. And thus the “cyanotype” was born.

From there, architects found these “blue prints” useful to make copies of one drawing. Sound familiar?

More in The Brilliant History of Color in Art

The Italian Comedians, about 1720, Jean-Antoine Watteau. J. Paul Getty Museum.
Equisetum sylvaticum, 1853, Anna Atkins; and Anne Dixon. J. Paul Getty Museum.