Photography BA (hons)

Aiden Sun


Digital Book

By collaging botanical illustrations of British wildflowers and photographic imagery of native Chinese plants, I represent the merging of two cultures within myself.

Navigating within this merged identity can be confusing, even alienating, but there is also a beauty to it that I would never give up.


Source material

Lady Wilkinson, Weeds and Wildflowers: Their Uses, Legends and Literature
DiscoverEd URL

Shelf mark

Special Collections: K.14.3 

Portrait & interview

1. What was it about this project and brief that originally appealed to you?

I have always had an interest in books, both reading them and producing my own, so this project seemed like a good opportunity to continue my pursuit of this interest.

2. What was your approach in searching for material that you wanted to work with?

At the time I was working on a project surrounding flowers and botanical illustration. I knew botanical illustration was quite an old profession and wanted to find old botanical illustrations to work with. To do this I searched in the special collections’ online catalogue for books to do with botany, flora or flowers with illustrations, then took them out at the Centre for Research Collections to get them scanned.

3. Did you find anything about the project challenging?

Reading through the old Playfair Library catalogues to check if the books I was finding in my search had ever been a part of the Playfair Library’s collection was a challenge. This was due to how large the catalogue was and how the handwritten text was quite hard to read at times.

4. What unexpected discoveries did you manage to make during your research?

I discovered that there were actually many books on botany and flowers that contained no images. I found this strange as I doubt you would find many books on flowers to be pictureless today, but now it is a lot easier to include with our digital cameras that can easily take photos and printers to quickly print them. So, it makes sense that sometimes they might not have access to or been able to afford to reproduce images through the printmaking processes available at the time.

5. How has this project had impact on your art practice?

It has definitely continued my interest in producing book works but has also caused me to become interested in using books and imagery from books as material in my work.

6. Did your final output end up as you’d envisaged?

Not quite. Originally, I wanted to use other imagery or photographs of plants to produce collages that mimicked the shape of the botanical illustration or the plant depicted, but in the end, I found that using the botanical illustrations themselves made more sense for the work and linked more obviously back to their source material.

7. What advice would you give to someone doing this project next year?

If you have a specific type of book or subject matter that you want to pursue, it is definitely easier to look through the online catalogues than the Playfair Library catalogue. 


Copyright © Aiden Sun, All rights reserved The University of Edinburgh 2020

Please note at the student’s request there is no Creative Commons licence applied to their work.