Lady behind the lens

In a previous blog I mentioned that my dear friends find the idea of me traipsing around the Cornish countryside with an antique camera highly amusing.  I am guessing, actually I know, that this is because this is the kind of image they imagine when they think of me:

The lady photographer was a bit of a rarity, especially when photography itself was in its infancy. (Part of that may have been the sheer weight of the equipment involved, even more of a challenge while wearing all those skirts.) But seek them out and there really are some wonderful early examples of
the art created by some smart pioneering women.

This is Anna Atkins (1799-1871) in a portrait taken in 1861.  Anna moved in very scientific circles, William Henry Fox Talbot and John Herschel were family friends.  She was clearly an intelligent and inquisitive lady and she used what was considered the new gentleman’s hobby to help her record and illustrate her real passion – botany.  As a result she is thought to be the first person to ever publish their photographs in a book.  Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions was published in October 1843. She also proudly claimed to be the world’s first female photographer.

Since I am starting to find the cost of developing my Box Brownie films a little steep I am seriously considering learning to process them myself.  Hopefully if Anna can do it so can I and lets face it these days it is much less of a hit and miss procedure than it was for her!  And despite what my friends may imagine I will not be wearing a large hat, corset and 3 underskirts when I do it! In fact the reality of course is far duller, although I still like to think of myself as elegant (ha!) and I must admit that I am all too often inappropriately dressed! (I once climbed a volcano in flip-flops)

This then is the actual me, snapping myself Vivian Maier style ( I wish) in a reflection in Boscawen Street, Truro. I would like to add that I am far more cheerful than this picture would lead you to believe, that’s my face of concentration.


I have had another film developed and am quite happy with the results. Little by little I am getting the hang of this, that is of course despite accidently catching the shutter while putting the Brownie back in its case and so taking a picture of the inside of the bag! What did I say in a previous Brownie post – make every shot count! Oops!

For more Brownie photos

Box Brownie – The original ‘Mirrorless Camera’ Vs the 21st century version

Box Brownie: The Perfect Reflection


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10 thoughts on “Lady behind the lens

  1. I met a descendant of Anna Atkins, a retired Australian doctor. She gave a talk about Anna at a photo book meeting I attended here in Brisbane about 18 months ago. I love photo books so I was to learn about and see a copy of the first one produced by Anna Atkins. Thanks for your site, I am enjoying it a lot. Jeff Ryan

    1. Hi Jeff so did you really see one of Anna’s original books!?! That must have been amazing!! You lucky thing 😃 thanks for the likes, glad you enjoyed my post, your photos are very cool 😃

    1. Thank you for your comments 🙂 it is great fun to us!! It costs me £12 a time but I only get 8 shots on a film, I am planning to learn how to do it myself though so that’ll help!!

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