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, who pioneered the use of cyanotype in the way that fuels my imagination 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.
While I am not applying the cyanotype process to create photographs, as a multi-media artist the possibilities with cyanotype are inspiring. Fusing my practice of herbalism and work with plants with the nitty gritty of elemental ingredients involved: iron salts + paper + plants + sunlight + water, it is a delightful way to create a work of art that depicts a ‘telling’ that is literally infused with essence of place. Stay tuned for more, for my imagination is running wildly blue!