Stephen Cornford


  Dark Current Collages (2019)


Noise in digital photography consists of stray electrons in the camera circuitry, random deviations of colour within a uniform area that are particularly visible in areas of low light. Our cameras treat them as dirt, smoothing out these discrepancies in the image processing stage. The noise on an image sensor can be seen in a ‘dark current’ image: a long exposure taken in pitch black that reveals the chromatic noise-field from which our images appear.

The image sensors on space telescopes such as Hubble are exposed to radiation wavelengths invisible to the human eye and largely filtered out by the earth’s magnetosphere. Astronomers using Hubble’s camera can measure these super- and sub-chromatic wavelengths and render them as visible colour by ascribing each frequency measured to one of the Red, Green or Blue primaries.

In these collages the background noise of the camera is equated with the background radiation of astronomical instruments. Background noise is measured with respect to a signal, background radiation in millisieverts annually, they become indistinguishable in the camera’s eye. The noise in the system and the noise of the solar system both image as dappled colour-fields. Is the difference between the contingent electrons in our technologies and the contingent signals in our galaxy merely one of scale?