Biography | Bibliography
Anna Atkins was born in Tunbridge, Kent, England in 1799. Her mother died while Atkins was an infant. She was raised by her father, John George Children, a highly respected scientist and a Fellow and Secretary of the Royal Society.
Recognized as the earliest woman photographer, Atkins produced the first book to use photographic illustrations: British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. In 1841, inspired by advice from William Henry Fox Talbot, she took up photography. By 1843, she had mastered Sir John Herschel’s cyanotype process. From 1843-1853 she worked consistently and documented her large collection of seaweed. These cyanotype photograms were released as a 12-part series.
Beginning in 1853, Atkins and her childhood friend, Anne Dixon, began to collaborate in creating photograms of ferns, flowers, feathers and lace. While artistic expression was not her original goal in recording the specimens of British algae, many of the plates can be celebrated as much for their imaginative composition and aesthetic appeal as for their scientific intent.
Atkins produced a total of three volumes of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions between 1843 and 1853. Only 17 copies of the book are known to exist, in various states of completeness.
Boris Friedewald, Women photographers : from Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman, Munich : Prestel, 2014.
Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher, Ocean flowers : impressions from nature, Princeton, N.J. ; Woodstock : Princeton University Press, 2004.
Larry J. Schaaf, Sun gardens : Victorian photograms / by Anna Atkins, New York, N.Y. : Aperture : Distributed in the U.S. by Viking Penguin, ca. 1985.