Discovered and named in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, ‘cyanotype’ from Ancient Greek for ‘dark blue impression’, the process involves the use iron salts mixed with water and applied to a substrate that reacts to sunlight or uv light, forming a blueprint.
Initially, cyanotypes were used for reproducing technical drawings made by engineers and architects. It was a friend of the Herschel family, Anna Atkins, a botanist, who pioneered the use of cyanotype in the way that inspires me by placing algae on coated paper and exposing it to light, in effect creating the earliest botanical photograph. She went on to publish a book of photograms called “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions” in 1843, known as the first photographically illustrated book that was published.
Having stumbled into the world of cyanotypes, I find they resonate deeply and inspire me abundantly. From my practice of herbalism and work with plants, to my life in the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, down to the nitty gritty of elemental ingredients involved: iron salts + paper + plants + sunlight + water; cyanotypes are fast turning into the medium of choice for me. Stay tuned for more, for my imagination is running wildly blue!