Ancient Light

In Melanie King’s body of work, Ancient Light, her hand printed photographs consist of subtle captures of natural deep dark sky called astronomical photography. These photographs were photographed on analog film, developed in plant based solutions and hand printed on a pearl or water color papers. The pearl papers are RC black and white photographic papers developed in caffenol solutions and have semi-gloss to each print with an overall tones ranging in light browns to pinks and slight purple. Another set of the photographs have been printed on cyanotype treated watercolor paper and processed with green tea giving the prints a very saturated look with ranges in tones of black to slight reds and some greenish hues throughout.

Ancient Light is Melanie’s exploration into introducing environmentally safe processes for photography by revisiting the intension set by the inventors of the medium such as Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel. Using historical processes in photography in the midst of the early 21st Century brings us back to a time and process that frequently gives the most visibly enlightened results. Photographic results that remind us of the extremely stark difference between the look of in photography of the “now,” with its hyper real digital state, as opposed to look and the feel of the actual tactile “real” of fabricated art such as Ancient Light, replete with subtlety, nuance, structure, texture, and its highly personalized physicality of one’s realization of their creative mind.

The scientists that invented photography aspired and envisioned a world of record. But it does not escape us for a second that from the very first capture of light they were artists from the very start & did not realize, there was no mistaking that this was art. The battle of photography as art has been a century old debate, but science and invention is nothing if not art. Honestly, it’s the same sensation in accomplishment. The sensation of putting theory into practice and proving it can be done with vision, fabrication, and actualization is a pure, if not the purest expression, of the mind and therefore Art (with a capital A).

Melanie King’s Ancient Light body of work is a highly personal visualization, execution, and fabrication of her scientific studies and theories. Each one of a kind piece is a dreamy excursion into @melaniekatking ‘s process. Each piece is a valuable work of science and of art.

Melanie King is a visual artist and practice-based researcher at the Royal College of Art. She is interested in the relationship between starlight, photography and materiality.  Her PhD practice-based research “Ancient Light” considers how light travels thousands, if not millions of years, before reaching photosensitive film or a digital sensor.  Her main 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. The purpose of her research is to demonstrate the intimate connection between celestial objects (sun, moon, stars), photographic material and the natural world. Melanie is currently researching sustainable photographic processes, to minimise the environmental impact of her artistic practice.

Her 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, Ireland, the Lake District (UK) and Cornwall (UK) to spend time underneath the night sky. For her research, she has also analysed 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.

Recent work has been inspired by Melanie’s move to Margate, UK, where she is in close proximity to dark skies, dramatic sunsets and a tumultuous sea.