Weekend Heller: Photos Before Photography

Posted inThe Daily Heller
Thumbnail for Weekend Heller: Photos Before Photography

Over this Weekend before Christmas, give yourself the gift of the current exhibition at The New York Public Library (main branch, the one with the icon NYPL Lions) of marvels from Anna Atkins’s Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions; this her 1843 magnum opus, ‘”Photographs of British Algae,’ whose first sections she published 175 years ago this fall,” notes the New York Times, was the first volume ever to be illustrated with photographs, albeit ones made without a camera.” Dozens of pages of pre-photograms (before Man Ray And Paul Rand too) from that book are on view in “Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins,” on the interplay of science and art. “In 1843, she started producing ‘photographical impressions’ of these algae, ‘many of which,’ as she wrote in a letter displayed in the show, ‘are so minute that accurate drawings of them are very difficult to make.'” Astounding!

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →