Ptilota sericea

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Artist Statement

 

When captured by Anna Atkins, this little seaweed was called Ptilota sericea (later Ptilota elegans). Today, we refer to it by the scientific name of Plumaria plumosa. The reddish-purple seaweed grows 2-3 inches long and is typically found in the North Atlantic, along both North American and European shores. 

Atkins created her cyanotype photograms by placing the specimen onto light-sensitive paper, and then exposing paper and subject to the sun for a period of time. She then developed the image using the cyanotype process, resulting in a rich blue background.

 

Anna Atkins | See All Editions

 

Anna Atkins (1799 - 1871) was an English botanist and photographer, best known for her "cyanotype impressions", or cyanotype photograms. Atkins grew up under the tutelage of her father, scientist John George Children, which led her to find her passion in botany. Both her father and her husband, John Pelly Atkins, were friendly with some of the inventive minds of the time. These included William Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the photogram, and Sir John Herschel, developer of the cyanotype photograph process. Though these men taught Anna Atkins how to use their inventions, only she brought them together in scientific and artistic study. Using her extensive collection of dried plants, Atkins created enough cyanotype photograms to self-publish Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, the first-ever book illustrated with photographs. She later published two other books of cyanotype impressions as well as other non-photographic books before her death in 1871.