Current Students

Helen McGhie

‘Stargazing at the ‘Invisible’: Photography and the Power of Obscured Light – A Research Partnership with Kielder Observatory.’

Though methods of fine-art photography and with reference to ‘feminist science’ theory, my work is exploring the cultural connectedness of astronomy and photography though the experience of darkness at Kielder Observatory (KOAS). Funded by the National Productivity Investment Fund (AHRC), my collaborative research project is designed to enhance the cultural capital of KOAS as a public-outreach science organisation in the world’s third largest protected Dark Sky reserve, located in Northumbria, UK.

I am interested in radically re-examining the visual clichés in existing Astrophotography and cultural images of space (i.e. vivid colours in sublime darkness) through photography that does not merely illustrate, but rather engages with the “[…] technological, biological, cultural, social and political flows of data that produce photographic objects”, as described by Zylinska (2016, p. 11) – this involves testing an alternative, imaginative experience of dark skies through photography. Through a series of engagements with KOAS’s staff, volunteers and visitors, I have so far produced a number of photographic portraits and still lives inspired by conversations with amateur astronomers.


Kuc, K. (ed.) and Zylinska, J. (ed.) (2016) Photomediations: A Reader. Open Humanities Press.

Research Blog:
Photography at Sunderland:

Supervisory Team: Dr Carol McKay, Arts and Creative Industries (Sunderland), Prof. Arabella Plouveiz, Arts and Creative Industries (Sunderland), Trustees and Staff, Kielder Observatory.

Start Date: October 2017.