In an era when the Enlightenment’s orderly vision of the natural world began to unravel, Anna Atkins produced the world’s first photography book: a collection of cyanotypes, created across a decade beginning in 1843, that captured algal forms in startling blue-and-white silhouettes. Paige Hirschey situates Atkins’ efforts among her naturalist peers, discovering a form of illustration that, rather than exhibit an artist’s mastery over nature, allowed specimens to “illustrate” themselves. more
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