Inspired by the beautifully atmospheric cyanotypes of Anna Atkins, an English botanist and photographer (1799 – 1871), hand-made prints of plant specimens found at Trengwainton were created using the same techniques developed over 150 years ago.
Anna Atkins is considered as the first female photographer and her passion for plants led her to create what is known as the first illustrated book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843), which can be seen at The British Library. This important ground-breaking technique was as a result of knowing the pioneer of early photography William Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel who first devised the cyonatype process.
The method of ‘sun printing’ uses ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide on paper. The specimen is then laid on the paper and pressed with a glass plate which is then exposed in the sun. It is then washed in water and dried. The detailed imprint of the plant is left on the paper while the uncovered parts becomes dark blue when exposed to light.
Working with botanist Keith Spurgin and writer Selina Bates, filmmaker and Trengwainton Heritage Project director Barbara Santi retraced Atkins’ steps and produced ten ‘impressions’ on the grounds at Trengwainton.