Anna Atkins

Back in the 1800’s, photography was emerging as a new technology. One of the first people to put this to use was Anna Atkins (1799- 1871), an early pioneer at employing photography for its aesthetic and scientific values.

Anna was born into a family of scholars and scientists in England; her father was a noted chemist and zoologist who was instrumental in Anna’s early development. She showed a lot of interest in botany and the natural world, along with a love of art and the new medium of photography. Through her association with early pioneers in photography, Anna utilized the cyanotype method of photography to publish what is considered to be the first book of photographic images in (1843) entitled, “Photographs of British Algae.” With the cyanotype method, the object of the photo was placed on a special paper treated with iron-based chemicals and laid out in the sun. After a while, the paper exposed to the sun turned blue, leaving a white image of the object. This method was an early precursor of blue printing. Ann published 3 volumes of these photographs over a ten-year period, and collaborated with her friend, Anne Dixon, to publish additional books on ferns and flowers. Besides her books on photography, Anna wrote three novels during her lifetime. Over the course of her career, Anna continued to explore the new medium of photography, and was one of the first to use the camera. For all her work, Anna is considered to be the first person to use photography as an accurate medium for scientific and artistic expression.

Article by FCFCDB

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