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Dixon and Anna Atkins created each image, or photogenic drawing, by carefully placing the specimen onto a sheet of paper that had been made light-sensitive by a coating of a combination of chemicals. The resulting print is called a cyanotype because of the blue color produced by the chemicals. Securing the specimens to the paper with a sheet of glass, the glass and paper were then placed in the sun; after sufficient exposure to light, the paper was washed in water, which caused the image to appear in its final form. Because the specimens were solid objects that light could not pass through, they appear as negative images.
Schaaf, Larry John. Sun Gardens: Victorian Photograms by Anna Atkins, organized by Hans P. Kraus, Jr. (New York, N.Y.: Aperture; Distributed in the U.S. by Viking Penguin, 1985) p. 56.