Anonymous Amateur

For Anna Volume II

Anonymous Amateur nods to the first female photographer, Anna Atkins, who was nearly erased from photographic history because she was a woman. At one point, people believed the signed initials A.A. on prints stood for “Anonymous Amateur”.  Atkins was an amateur botanist who is most known for her cyanotype photograms of algae specimen; these works are camera-less cyanotypes made at the shoreline, where algae and debris from the landscape adhere to the photographic materials.

For Anna Volume III

In 2017 I viewed a volume of Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae in the Rijksmuseum conservation lab. Atkins’ book was bound in the 19th century and consists of 307 unique cyanotype plates made in the 1840s. Each plate is a blue and white photogram of specimen collected from the shoreline, dried, exposed in the sun, washed in water, and meticulously labelled by hand.

Over time, certain images in Atkins’ book have imprinted on each other. Imperfections on the surface or residue from human contact have offset onto neighboring pages. The prints have become part of each other. They have changed each other.

For Anna Volume III is an homage to Atkins, who published the first book using photography to scientifically illustrate the world around us, and whose work has shaped my own. The book consists of cyanotypes from the last five years—made at the ocean, exposed by the sun, and washed by the waves. As the book is handled and ages, the prints will impact each other and show markers of the process of time. It is housed in a box that includes a fragment folder, where viewers are asked to collect and deposit debris that shed from the book during viewing.