Born in 1799, Anna Atkins captured plants, shells and algae in ghostly wisps and ravishing blues. Why isn’t she famous?
‘Photography pioneer” conjures up an image of a Victorian gentleman under a drape with an outsize wooden box on a tripod. Yet one of the biggest landmark moments of early photography was down to a woman who didn’t even use a camera, and was born decades before Victoria became queen.
Anna Atkins is considered to have been the first female photographer. She was born in Kent in 1799, and she made her most significant contribution across 10 years in the mid-19th century in which she created at least 10,000 images by hand. But it was what she did with those pictures that gave her a place in art history. Atkins realised what millions of social media users know today: that images are for sharing. She created the first book to contain photographs, and she paved the way for photography’s power to connect people.