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The theme of unstable boundaries is developed in chapter 4, which centers on iron and cyanotypes, or blueprint photography, which materially register industrial growth. Reading Anna Atkins’s cyanotypes of algae and ferns through Walter Benjamin’s writing on the links between iron, metabolism, and industry reveals the links between the print, the plant, plantation slavery, and industrial growth. The chapter then turns to railroad photography in Pennsylvania’s Steel Belt during the second Industrial Revolution to consider the rise of blueprint photography, contrasting blueprints with William Rau’s albumen prints. The chapter concludes with LaToya Ruby Frazier’s cyanotypes, which explore embodied histories of deindustrialization in the Rust Belt. Throughout, the chapter shows how iron as a material moves between registers—the plant, the body, and infrastructure—enabling both biological and industrial growth, alongside differentially distributed costs to sacrificed life.

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