Anna Atkins, Dandelion

Anna Atkins, Dandelion

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
About 1854
Cyanotype
Museum no. PH.382-1981

This is probably the first photographic portrait of a dandelion. It comes from Anna Atkins's finest album, Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns, which she presented to her friend and co- photographer Anne Dixon in 1854. To make a 'photogram' with the cyanotype process, the photographer laid an object on paper impregnated with iron salts, then exposed the paper to sunlight for a few minutes. When washed in water, the area where the plant had blocked the light remained white, but the area that was exposed came out a rich blue.

As a botanist and early photographer, Atkins quickly realised the benefit of using the cyanotype process to record specimens of plant life and was the first person to print and publish a photographically illustrated book, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions (1843). She took up what she called 'Sir John Herschel's beautiful process of cyanotype' as soon as it was invented in 1842.

This photograph can be found in Print Room Box DP3.