Megan N. Liberty is an arts writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Her interests include artists’ books, ephemera, and other intersections of text and image. She has a master’s in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and is the Art Books section editor at the Brooklyn Rail. (November 2018)


Anna Atkins & Photography’s Blue Beginnings

Anna Atkins: Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit, from Part
XI of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, 1849–1850,

In 1843, Anna Atkins, daughter of the prominent British scientist John George Children, began work on her book of photograms (the full edition of which would include over 400 prints) documenting specimens of British algae, what is now considered the first book to be fully illustrated with photography and the first use of photography for scientific documentation. Two exhibitions at the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman Building, “Blue Prints” and “Anna Atkins Refracted,” celebrate this astonishing historical achievement, as well as the legacy of Atkins’s work for contemporary artists.