Melanie King

MPhil work

Ancient Light: Rematerialising The Astronomical Image

How can the field of astronomical photography, viewed through the lens of new materialism and photographic theory, alter our collective perception of ecology?

Melanie is interested in the relationship between starlight, photography and materiality.  Melanie's PhD research project 'Ancient Light: Rematerialising the Astronomical Image' considers how light travels thousands, if not millions of years, before reaching photosensitive film or a digital sensor. Melanie's body of photographs 'Ancient Light' comprises of a series of analogue photographic negatives and prints of star-scapes, as well as a series of images created using telescopes and observatories around the world. Alongside this body of work, Melanie has produced 16mm films of the Moon and photographic etchings created using meteorite-imbued ink, milled at the Royal School of Mines. Melanie has produced daguerreotypes and world-record sized cyanotypes exploring the relationship with the Sun and photosensitive material. 

Melanie's practice-based research has taken her on a journey far and wide, including collaborative projects with the UCLO Observatory in London, Kielder Observatory on the border of England and Scotland, the Laboratory for Dark Matter Research in Boulby, UK and the EU Commission in Ispra, Italy. Melanie has participated in residencies in Iceland, Italy, Spain, Grizedale Forest, UK and Cornwall, UK to spend time under the night sky. For her research, Melanie has looked at analogue astronomical specimens within the UCL Space History Archive and the Royal Astronomical Society in London. Further afield, Melanie has visited the Mount Wilson Observatory, Carnegie Archives and Hale Solar Laboratory in California, USA as well as the European Space Agency in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Ancient Light considers the moment in which the photon is created within the energetic furnace of a star, the long and tireless journey of the photon from a star to Earth, and the eventual absorption of the photon within photosensitive silver gelatin film. At the heart of this study is an exploration into new materialism, considering how the study of materiality and processes can affect our conception of the world around us. New materialism also triggers an enquiry into the materiality of the photographic, the ontology of the photograph itself.


  • MPhil


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Print, 2015–

  • Melanie King is an artist and curator with a specific focus on astronomy. Melanie is co-Director of super/colliderLumen Studios and the London Alternative Photography Collective. She is a visiting lecturer on the MA Programme at the Royal College of Art, and the BA Photography course at University of West London. Melanie is a part-time doctoral student at the Royal College of Art. 

    Melanie's solo exhibitions include Leeds Art University and the Blyth Gallery, Imperial College London. She has exhibited in group shows at The Photographers' Gallery, Argentea Gallery, Guest Projects, Space Studios and the Sidney Cooper Gallery. Melanie has also exhibited in a wide range of international galleries, such as the Williamson Gallery in Los Angeles, CAS Gallery in Japan and Unseen Amsterdam.  Melanie has attended residencies organised by Bow Arts, Grizedale Forest and SIM Reykjavik, Iceland.

    Melanie has been involved in a number of large-scale commissions, including Green Man Festival, Vivid Projects, Bompas and Parr X Citizen M Hotel,  Mayes Creative, Design Miami x COS Stores, Chelsea Flower Fringe and the Wellcome Trust.

    Melanie regularly presents her work at conferences, universities and galleries. Notable venues include the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Photographers' Gallery, Tate Modern, Art Center Pasadena, University of the Arts Helsinki, The European Geosciences Conference: Vienna, Kosmica: Mexico, Kosmica: Paris, Helsinki Photomedia and Second Home. Melanie has provided guest lectures to Bath Spa University, Leeds Art University, London South Bank University, London College of Communication,  Central Saint Martins International Space University: Space Studies Programme.

  • Degrees

  • MA Art and Science, Central Saint Martins, London, 2013; BA Fine Art, Leeds College of Art, 2011
  • Experience

  • co-director, super/collider, London, 2014-Present; co-director, Lumen Studios, London, 2014-Present; co-director, London Alternative Photography Collective, 2013-Present
  • Exhibitions

  • Laboratory of Dark Matters, Guest Projects, London, 2017; Altered Realities, Central Saint Martins, Lethaby Gallery, London, UK, 2017; London Creative Network Showcase, Space Studios, London, 2017; Catching The Light, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, UK, 2016; Aether, Imperial College London, UK, 2016; analogueNOW!, Berlin, Germany, 2016; Of Stones & Stars, Print House Gallery, London, UK, 2016; Aether, Jarvis Dooney Gallery, Berlin, Germany, 2016; The Story of Light Festival, Miramar Beach, Goa, India, 2015; Material Light, Cultural Centre of Belgrade, Serbia, 2015; Contact Light, Article Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 2014; On Light, UCL Malet Place in association with The Wellcome Trust, London, UK, 2015; AETHER: UAL Showroom, London, UK, 2015; Unstable, FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby, UK, 2015
  • Conferences

  • Sensing Space, Kosmica, Cosmovitral Jardín Botánico, Toluca, Mexico, 7 October 2016; Contemporary Arts Practice and Outer Space, International Astronautical Congress, Guadalajara, Mexico, 28 September 2016; First Light, Helsinki Photomedia Conference 2016, Aalto University, Finland, 30 March 2016