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Jo Atherton’s unique flotsam cyanotypes have been created using the found objects she has been collecting on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall for almost a decade. For Jo, the tideline remains an endless source of inspiration which she reads as a temporary narrative, replenished with each rising tide. Her preoccupation with the plastic items she picks up stems from a curiosity and love of archaeology. Just as stone tools and metal fragments have been used to define cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will signify our own time, and through these forgotten fragments our own stories will be told.

Working in cyanotype, a primitive photography technique first developed in the 1800s, Jo creates bold images and patterns with a ghostly feel. Many of these everyday items found on our coastlines will inevitably become material ghosts, speaking at a time when fossil fuels and plastics were so abundant in our daily lives. These bold images present an uncanny reflection of ourselves, harnessing solar energy to produce haunting yet familiar remnants of our material culture. The technique itself, which relies on the sun’s power to create these striking images on light sensitive paper references the energy upon which we all depend.

Jo Atherton has collaborated with a number of national organisations including the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, the Cutty Sark, Natural History Museum, Bristol Aquarium, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and even London Luton Airport! The unique concept behind her work has seen her invited to speak at a variety of academic conferences and festivals including the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Glasgow and Royal Anthropological Institute. She has delivered a TEDx talk on the rich source of creative interpretation tidelines can offer, and has also seen her designs featured in a number of international magazines and journals. The broad appeal of her striking images demand both an aesthetic appreciation and something much deeper, fostering a conversation around one of the most important issues of our time. 

Jo has an MA is Cultural & Critical Studies from the University of London and BA (Hons) in English from the University of Winchester.