Application & Interactions – Week 9: Concept Development

Week 9 Lecture & Resources

Anna Atkins

Cyanotype of Aspidium lobatum fern by Anna Atkins.

Having first discovered the work of Anna Atkins about a year ago, during the Contemporary Practice module, I was interested to learn more about the cyanotype – a photographic process – and her passion for botany and science.

“She was a member of the Botanical Society of London, pioneering in the field of photography for science. She used cyanotypes to publish ‘Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions’ between 1843 and 1853.” (Science Museum Group n.d.)

Cover of Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns by Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon.

Through my research, both in the Science Museum Group’s digital archives and beyond (see references), I began to appreciate how pioneering her work was in the early days of photography. Her cyanotype prints, created using the process developed by Sir John Herschel, were a way to record and illustrate botanical specimens of algae and ferns, without the need for a drawing, as was the traditional method. (Schaaf 2018)

Refining Ideas

Below is a series of different ideas I developed during a “Crazy 8s” session – my inspiration is the work of Anna Atkins, the first female photographer, who published the first book with photographic images (and type!) using cyanotype prints of botanical specimens – ultimately I want to tell her story and bring it to life.

  1. Animation showing the plants emerging on the page
  2. Create your own cyanotype (mail order?) kit
  3. Cyanotype workshops – hands-on, to let people try it
  4. A series of murals inspired by the fern & algae cyanotypes she produced
  5. Exhibition – including projections of the cyanotype images that you can walk around and fish tanks with blue water and fern-like plants (kind of like a living cyanotype)
  6. Short film depicting her achievements as a botanist and photographer
  7. Mini photo book tell in Anna’s story with cyanotype prints
  8. Social media – ask people make something inspired by her work and share on IG (e.g. art, textiles, photographs)

At this point, I needed to narrow my ideas down and asked for some feedback on the Ideas Wall, which is shown in the image below.


BOOM, Mattie and ROOSEBOOM, Hans. 2019. ‘Acquisitions: Photographs – Anna Atkins to Anne Geene.’ The Rijksmuseum Bulletin, 67(2), pp. 162-191.

CHANG, Joshua. 2019. ‘Anna Atkins: discovering one of photography’s hidden pioneers.’ FT Magazine / Financial Times. Available at [accessed 30/11/2021]

LONG, Kat. 2018. ‘How 19th-Century Photographer Anna Atkins Changed the Way We Look at Science.’ Mental Floss. Available at [accessed 30/11/2021]

LOTZOF, Kerry. ‘Anna Atkins’s cyanotypes: the first book of photographs.’ Natural History Museum. Available at [accessed 30/11/2021]

New York Public Library. 2021. ‘Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins.’ Available at [accessed 30/11/2021]

SASKA, Hope. 2010. ‘Anna Atkins: Photographs of British Algae’. Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, 84(1/4), pp 8–15.

SCHAAF, Larry J. 2018. Sun Gardens: Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins. New York: The New York Public Library.

Science Museum Group. ‘Album of cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns.’ Available at [accessed 27/11/2021]

Science Museum Group. ‘Anna Atkins.’ Available at [accessed 08/11/2021]

Science Museum Group. ‘Booklet of “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions” by Anna Atkins.’ Available at: [accessed 30/11/2021]

Science Museum Group. ‘Frontispiece of “Cyanotypes of British And Foreign Ferns” album, 1853.’ Available at [accessed 27/11/2021]