Botanical Photograms

Development, Final Major Project, Projects, Sketchbook, Visual Research

Cyanotype Experiments with My Collected Plants

After putting my pressed plants under a microscope, I realised that I needed to gain a better understanding of how specimens are presented as such, especially after my visits to the Grant Museum and Natural History Museum, seeing how they’re placed in jars and labelled – the best way to do this by putting my collection through a range of different processes. Beginning with photograms.


About the Process

Cyanotype was originally used as a low-cost way to reproduce drawings, leaving a blue tone due to the chemicals used during exposure (which is where the term blueprint comes from). I was drawn to this process looking at the work of Anna Atkins who used this process to organise her botanical specimens on the page, arranging them in such a way that resembled the organisation of Ernst Haeckel’s scientific plates. Doing so suggests the notion of early botany and categorisation.


Fern Cyanotype by Anna Atkins



Scientific Plate by Ernst Haeckel



My Experiments

I didn’t have access to the light sensitive chemicals needed to prepare my surface to produce cyanotype prints, but I did come across prepared paper in the London Graphic Centre which sufficed.

I mounted my pressed plants onto A5 sheets of acetate, laying them directly over the prepared paper, exposing it under UV light (the sun). As British weather is quite unpredictable, I found this difficult sometime as sunlight was scarce at time. Nonetheless, I was still pleased with the vibrantly blue prints that appeared as the paper was rinsed with water and hung to dry.


Hanging my prints to dry on a washing line with pegs made in my bathroom between the bath handles



As both sides of the paper were light sensitive, I exposed different plants on the other side





Final Thoughts

As successful as my cyanotypes were, I felt as though my natural specimens lack a link to the city which is imperative because my fmp aims to look at nature as a curiosity WITHIN THE CITY thus needs to be contextualised within the urban environment. Although testing such traditional processes draws on early investigation and understanding of botany thus making link to nature as curiosity.


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