My name is Helen McGhie, I’m a visual artist using photography and the moving image.

This blog documents my practice-led PhD research at the Northern Centre of Photography, University of Sunderland, in partnership with Kielder Observatory, a public-outreach astronomical organisation in Northumberland (UK), in the world’s third-largest dark sky reserve. Funded by the government’s National Productivity Investment Fund (AHRC), my research is designed to “[…] engage with the commercial or economic aspects of cultural creativity” (NBDTP & N-SC,2017, p. 4), whilst fulfilling the usual requirements of an arts-based PhD.

Though methods of fine-art photography and with reference to contemporary feminist science theory, my work explores the cultural connectedness of astronomy and photography through the experience of darkness at Kielder; my collaborative research is designed to enhance the cultural capital of Kielder Observatory, whilst developing alternative work that examines the visual clichés in cultural images of outer space. My work is considering what Joanna Zylinska (2016, p. 11) describes as the “[…] technological, biological, cultural, social and political flows of data that produce photographic objects” – part of this is involving the photographic creation of alternative, imaginative experiences of dark skies.



NBDTP & N-SC. (2017) Joint Competition for AHRC Studentships through the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) scheme.Available at: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/more/research/institutes/institute-arts-creative-industries/centre-research-art-design/npif-phd-studentships/(Accessed: 1 June 2017).

Kuc, K. (ed.) and Zylinska, J. (ed.) (2016) Photomediations: A Reader.Open Humanities Press. Available at: http://openhumanitiespress.org/books/download/Kuc-Zylinska_2016_Photomediations-A-Reader.pdf(Accessed: 28 December 2018).