Some insight into the history of the cyanotype. Check out a cyanotype by Jan Van Leeuwen in our gallery.
No, that’s not an Instagram photo. It’s print known as a cyanotype, which involves a specialized chemical process that imparts the slightly surreal, cerulean blue tint. The procedure was first developed in 1842 by English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel.
Though the process was developed by Herschel, he considered it as mainly a means of reproducing notes and diagrams, as in blueprints. It was Anna Atkins who brought this to photography. She created a limited series of cyanotype books that documented ferns and other plant life from her extensive seaweed collection. Atkins placed specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a silhouette effect. By using this photogram process, Anna Atkins is regarded as the first female photographer.
Click here to read more about different photographic processes.
top: John Dugdale, Smile For Your Lover Comes (Stone Ridge, New York, 2000), hand-coated cyanotype, 2000, Museum Purchase made possible by the Harry Denham Trust, 2003/1.379
bottom: Anna Atkins, Equisetum Sylvaticum, cyanotype, 1853, Museum purchase, 1989/1.62