Sunday, June 7, 2009

Art & Science- Anna Atkins Cyanotypes

"Botanical illustration is often seen as a gap between art and science, not properly belonging to either", as mentioned in American Scientist Nov/Dec 2004.

The work of Anna Atkins is surely striking; she is well known for her amazing, Prussian blue-and-white cyanotype prints of seaweeds in her book published in 1843 on British Algae. Cyanotype is an early photographic printing process using the sunlight for contact printing actual objects as photograms on paper. Although Atkins was a competant watercolorist and draughtsman for botanical illustration, she brilliantly applied the cyanotype process to solve the difficulties of making accurate drawings of scientific specimens and self-published the first installment of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

Cyanotype is labeled now as an alternative photographic process used by many artists today. I have been playing around with sunprinting using cyanotype chemicals on silk material and also my handmade papers and am totally inspired by the work of Anna Atkins.

The images have an x-ray or MRI type of translucency that is stunningly beautiful against that Prussian blue backround. They are also accurate plant depictions and totally gorgeous!

Photo's of: Cyanotype photograms made by Atkins which was part of her 1843 book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions


AlternativePhotography said...

Nice article on Anna Atkins! If you want to try your hands on making cyanotypes yourself, there is an excellent beginners guide here:

Smoky Glow Studios said...

Thanks AlternativePhotography, love your blog!! very informative. Looking foward to reading more. I recently purchased a beautiful teak pinhole camera- I experimented with a bunch of film the other day all along the ocean and lava rock coastline in south maui- waiting to get it developed.