Cyanotype: A brief history and context

Invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, cyanotype is one of the earliest photographic printing techniques that combine salts of iron to create a UV light-sensitive solution that results in intense shades of cyan blue (also known as Prussian Blue) when coated on papers or other porous surfaces and exposed to sunlight/UV light. The process continued well into the 20th century as a process for architects and engineers to create copies of their notes, drafts and drawings (known as blueprints).

The ‘photogram’ process entered the world of photography when Anna Atkins, the world’s first female photographer, began to document plants and more specifically, her seaweed collections using the Cyanotype process. It was only after her experimentation, that cyanotype printing began to be considered an art form in its own right, as an alternative photographic process to create personal and historic archives.  

World Cyanotype Day, celebrated across the world on the last Saturday of October every year celebrates this humble yet creative process. This is our second annual open call exhibition to celebrate WCD 2022 and artists from around India and Chennai have sent in their prints under the theme of ‘Memory.’ 

The CPB Foundation has since early 2020 been conducting Cyanotyope workshops in Chennai as well as Goa to spread awareness of alternative photographic techniques.