Happy World Cyanotype Day.
Cyanotype is an alternative photographic technique invented by John Herschel in the early 1800s. His niece, English botanist Anna Atkins, is regarded as one of the first female photographers’due to her photographic explorations and discoveries that contributed significantly to the evolution of photography. The cyanotype process involves placing objects, such as leaves , on paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals and then left in sunlight.
Botanists recognised the usefulness of the cyanotype technique for recording the details of plant structure and for capturing and recording information of fragile dried specimens. Atkins could make her significant contribution because she already had an extensive botanical collection, and had experience of botanical publication. She recorded and published many of her own specimens in her book: Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, which included more than four hundred photographs .
Atkins’s stunning botanical prints were the botanist’s means of understanding and settling a curiosity with her direct surrounds, thus creating a relationship and understanding with the natural world. I too engage the use of cyanotype processes to document and understand the unfamiliar natural surrounds I encounter in my travels and have been making cyanotypes on the rooftop garden at Kominatus Salihara where i am an artist in residence as a part of the Melbourne University Collaborative cross cultural exchange program.
A series of samples on paper, silk and canvas resulted from this experimentation of making cyanotype prints with the leaves gathered i and objects made in Indonesia . Upon my return to Australia, I continued to experiment with these samples, as well as making new ones, dyeing these prints using plant dye baths from common Northern Territory plants such as eucalyptus and mangrove leaves.