Wedding of Michael Apcar and Araxe Santikian Saunders Apcar, Protestant Union Church, Yokohama, Japan, 1922

Project SAVE Photograph Archives Announces Artist and Research Residencies

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WATERTOWN — As part of its ongoing new initiatives, Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives (projectsave.org) is launching residencies for artists and researchers. The residencies will take place twice a year and are by invitation only, for the time being. The first residency is planned for this fall.

“The vast photographic wealth that Project SAVE has amassed since 1975 has been somewhat under the radar,” said Dr. Arto Vaun, who took the reins as executive director last year. “With over 80,000 hardcopy images from around the world, this archive is one of the most unique photography archives anywhere, yet it’s relatively unknown. My goal is to change that by expanding our reach through dynamic new initiatives that go beyond the Armenian community.”

Artists working in different mediums such as photography, painting, film, and music will spend anywhere from three weeks to three months at Project SAVE, exploring the archives and creating an original work that will then be shared with the public. They will also engage with the community through talks or workshops. Likewise, the research residency will include writers, curators, and scholars who will draw on the archives for their research projects.

“Project SAVE not only preserves the history and culture of Armenians but also provides a valuable photographic resource — one that has untold creative and academic possibilities,” said Kim Hoeckele, who serves on Project SAVE’s new advisory board and is an artist and professor of photography based in New York City. “This residency is an exciting opportunity to engage this rich archive in expansive ways.”

Bird’s Nest Orphanage with message on the back, April 27, 1960, Jbeil, Lebanon

Along with the “Conversations on Photography” series, redesigned website, and new advisory board, the artist and research residencies are part of Project SAVE’s substantial transition and growth over the past year. According to Vaun, these changes are all leading to the 50th anniversary fundraising campaign in 2025 to secure a larger, permanent space for the archives. “After all these decades of pioneering work, it no longer makes sense for such an immense and valuable archive to not have a proper, permanent space to exhibit and share all these powerful and beautiful photographs.”

Elena Bulat, senior photograph conservator at Harvard University and Project SAVE advisory board member, believes the artist and researcher residencies are a wonderful initiative. “This will be a great chance for young or experienced professionals to learn and share through these collections. These residencies, in fact, will build a well-informed community which will be able to help shape long-term preservation goals for Project SAVE.”

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Vaun is excited and optimistic that Project SAVE’s potential is about to bloom. “We live in a highly visual age. With such a diverse and vast collection of photographs, Project SAVE is more than ready to become more of a living archive that engages with a broader demographic. By championing the universal power and art of photography through these upcoming residencies and other initiatives, we’re attracting more of the general public to engage with and learn about the global Armenian experience.”

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