Armenoui Kasparian Saraidari is a PhD student at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, she is a third year student and has recently carried out research in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Here she tells us about her PhD experience so far…
What is your PhD title? Has it changed much since you started/has your area of research developed into other areas, or do you find it easy to stay focused?
The materiality of photography and the memory of the Armenian Genocide. This has been the title of my PhD since my first year. Entering my third year now, I can say my research has developed in different directions over time, especially in terms of practice. It is only through expanding your interest in new territories that you discover what is most relevant for you, and then in a way you return to your initial question with rich and rigorous answers…or more questions. This way my project moved forwards.
Why did you choose UAL?
In 2012, when I first thought of undertaking a PhD, I was still studying for my Master’s Degree in Photography at CSM. Therefore, UAL was my first choice not only for its academic reputation but also judging from my positive experience as a postgraduate taught student. I looked for potential supervisors at all UAL Colleges and I met with Pam Skelton from CSM. CSM offered me a supervisory team of Dr. Jo Morra and Pam Skelton, they supported my ideas and helped me to form the research questions to validate my research. I was lucky enough to find the best suitable supervision and a familiar working environment all in one place.
What stage are you at in your PhD and what are you working on at the moment?
I am about to begin the third year of my full-time PhD studies. I have just returned from the States where I was a Research Fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
This fellowship was part of the AHRC International Placement, it allowed me to continue my research for six months in the world’s biggest library that holds one of the most comprehensive photographic archives in relation to the Armenian Genocide.
There, as a Fellow I was given access to unique collections that document the plight of the Armenian population in the late Ottoman period and later in the years of exile. Due to the large amount of material observed, I came up with a database for organising the material collected and making it available for my practice. One of my goals is to make this database available to the public.
Currently, I am working in the studio with material from the unprocessed archives of the American Red Cross that I discovered at the Library of Congress. By reproducing, grouping, recomposing, manipulating, and layering the images I wish to rephrase meaning and introduce new narratives in the history of the Armenian Genocide and diaspora.
You are funded by an AHRC Scholarship, how has this helped whilst studying your PhD?
An AHRC Scholarship apart from the financial support also offers a number of exclusive opportunities to their Scholars for funding, research programmes, training, workshops, events and many more. I have benefited from quite a few, with the biggest opportunity being the Fellowship at the Library of Congress.
How has your PhD benefitted from this Fellowship at the Library of Congress?
My Fellowship at the J.W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress was a milestone in my PhD. First, it offered a positive timeline for developing my project and organising my reading, writing and practice. Secondly, the research itself that I conducted in the archives wouldn’t have been achieved without this fellowship. Finally, it was a great opportunity to associate with international scholars from other disciplines and build bonds with other institutions worldwide.
Bringing that experience back to the art school of CSM, I believe will benefit not only myself but also the research community at UAL.
What would you like to do after your PhD, has your life changed because of your PhD?
Studying for a Practice-based PhD taught me how to keep a good balance between researching and creating artwork. Ideally, I would like to keep working under that formula; producing scholarly work and art practice as a Researcher either inside or outside of Academia.
Have you got any tips for prospective UAL PhD students?
Find suitable supervisors.
Find a solid research question.
Then add hard work and all your talents and you’ve got all you need.
How often do you meet with your supervisors and do they offer you different views on your PhD?
Depending on the needs of my PhD at each stage, we meet regularly always as a team and discuss all aspects of my project. In between meetings, we exchange emails, drafts or material related to my practice to keep the team updated with my progress, difficulties and achievements. Coming from different disciplines each of my supervisors offer unique input to my project whilst following a common plan.