20 9 / 2012

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was an English botanist and photographer. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images.

Anna was raised by her father, who was a scientist of many interests. Her detailed engravings of shells were used to illustrate her father’s translation of Lamarck’s Genera of Shells, which was published in 1823.She married John Pelly Atkins in 1825, and she pursued her interests in botany by collecting dried plants.

Sir John Herschel, a friend of Anna, invented the cyanotype photographic process in 1842. Within a year, Anna applied the process to algae (specifically, seaweed) by making cyanotype photograms that were contact printed “by placing the unmounted dried-algae original directly on the cyanotype paper”. Anna self-published her photograms in the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843. She produced a total of three volumes of Photographs.