A World of Blue: Cyanotypes and Early Photography - Atlas Obscura

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A World of Blue: Cyanotypes and Early Photography

Delve into the world of one of photography's earliest processes, then make one of your own.

Join Atlas Obscura field agent Sadie Francis and professional archivist and cyanotypist Irina Glik for a hands-on workshop to create your own cyanotype print, followed by an overview of this unique process, the chemistry involved, and its place in the history of alternative photography.

The Cyanotype, also known as "sun print" or "shadowgraph" is one of the earliest photographic printing processes. It creates a cyan blue silhouette when an object is placed on a reactive surface and develops in UV light. 

Discovered by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842, cyanotype was used primarily a way to quickly copy his scientific notes and diagrams. Herschel inspired his friend, Anna Atkins, a botanist, to use the process to make images of the flora she collected, earning her place as one of the world's first female photographers.  In October 1843, Atkins published “British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions”, a collection of 424 cyanotypes, and the first book ever to use photographic illustrations.  

From the 1870s through World War I, cyanotypes became popular among amateur photographers because of the speed and ease with which the process created a photographic image.  As one critic noted in 1900, the cyanotype was easy to master and yet taught new photographers important techniques such as "photographic carefulness, photographic cleanliness, and photographic thoroughness."

Event will be held at The Print Center, a nonprofit gallery located in Philadelphia’s historic Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The Center encourages the growth and understanding of photography and printmaking as vital contemporary arts through exhibitions, publications and educational programs. 


  • Ticket price covers all supplies and materials
  • Knowledge and experience of printmaking and cyanotyping are not required. 


Email John Pettit at  john.pettit@atlasobscura.com.

Stay connected! Subscribe to the Atlas Obscura Society Philadelphia newsletter and join our Facebook group for a first glimpse at upcoming events.

Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.