Sunderland researcher reflects dark skies into Kielder Forest this summer.

A photographic exhibition is giving visitors the chance to explore the darkness of a winter Kielder night throughout the summer months.

Created by photographic artist Helen McGhie, and located on the Skyspace walking trail, the exhibition explores a night of winter stargazing at Kielder through portraits, suspended between the trees, of stargazers, astronomy equipment and the environment.

Helen is Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University of Sunderland, and the exhibition ‘Another Dimension’ is part of her PhD research, exploring how photographic art can create new ways to experience dark skies in Northern England. The work is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s National Productivity Investment Fund.

Kielder Observatory in Northumberland International Dark Sky Parkhas thesecond-largest area (nearly 580 square miles) of protected night sky in Europe. The status was awarded by the International Dark Skies Association in 2013, the leading organisation working to combat light pollution worldwide.

With an estimated 85% of the UK population never witnessing a truly dark sky (Kielder Observatory, 2022), Helen says: “My photographs aim to bring a sense of the dark sky experience to the summer. I’m interested in those moments when our eyes adapt to night vision under true dark skies, which can feel a bit unsettling at first. I remember the first time I visited Kielder – I got out of my car, stretched out my arm and couldn’t see my hand! Whilst waiting for my eyes to adjust, I like to look up and imagine distant worlds, and wonder if there are others looking back at me from elsewhere in the universe. People tell me that my photographs have a science-fiction look, which is so interesting – it’s fun to imagine that we are the ‘other world’ to them.”

Catherine Johns, CEO of Kielder Observatory adds, “Kielder Observatory has worked in partnership with Helen for several years and her uniquely creative art helps bring new audiences and new experiences to our dark skies and explores how they inspire us. We’re delighted to have a new exhibition on the walk to the observatory.” 

A series of walking tours will be scheduled as part of the exhibition. There are 11 banners installed on part of the Skyspace walking trail (starting from Skyspace car park) in Kielder Forest and the exhibition launches for the bank holiday weekend (2nd June) and is on show until the 30th September.

 Helen is keen to hear what you think of the exhibition, and welcomes comments through email and social media.

@visitkielder #kielderdarkskies

Sunderland researcher reflects dark skies into Kielder Forest this summer.