Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Link: Anna Atkins

Brain Pickings draws our attention to the remarkable 19th Century photographic experiments of Anna Atkins (1799-1871):

Stunning Victorian Cyanotypes of Sea Algae

The cyanotype process was invented by the scientist Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), and was put to use by Atkins, herself the daughter of a well-known scientist (John George Children, 1777-1852), to create more accurate visual impressions of the seaweeds which greatly interested her as an amateur botanist. These gorgeous photograms were collected in limited editions which are exceptionally rare and valuable today. The material was reprinted in the 1985 book Sun Gardens: Victorian Photograms by Anna Atkins (now also fairly expensive, as it is out of print).

All photogramic processes are similar in that they involve the placement of objects onto light-sensitive material, and their subsequent exposure to light.

Apart from the sheer beauty and scientific usefulness of the images, a lovely aspect of this story is the fact that John George Children, who was renowned in mineralogy and zoology, gave his daughter and only child such an extensive scientific education at a time when it was uncommon for a girl to receive such consideration. Father and daughter were very close, as Anna's mother died when she was a child, and was sickly even before that. Anna Atkins paid tribute to her father by publishing a biography one year after his death.

Sun Gardens: Victorian Photograms

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