Sun, Sea, Algae

for The Plant
A white silhouette of a frond of seaweed, laid against a deep blue background. The paper is a little old.
Anna Atkins, Cystoseira fibrosa, 1843.

In January I wrote an article on the seaweed cyanotypes of Anna Atkins, well regarded as the first female photographer. It’s appeared in print with the summer issue of The Plant. It’s only available in print, so you’ll have to find a copy of the magazine. Alternatively, copies of her book British Algae can be found in the British Museum, the British Library, the Horniman Museum, and the New York Public Library. A recently acquired copy is currently featured at the Rijksmuseum as part of New Realities: Photography of the Nineteenth Century, open until the 17 of September.

The British coast is hardly the French Riviera. Where the rolling green-blue seas meet the stony shores the skies are damp, and more often than not dark, overcast and grey. Thankfully in these primordial conditions algae, of which seaweed is a type, thrives. Surrounding these shores are myriad varieties – from the long and broad fronds of kelp, to the wisp-like slimy whip-weed and forked prongs of black carrageen – intricate plant-like organisms that nutrify the water and bring colour and vitality to the seas and rock pools.

The article, Sun, Sea, Algae, is available in issue 11 of The Plant.