Parks Sadler

Parks Sadler
MFA candidate at Central Saint Martins in London

Education: BFA in Art with a Concentration in Photography, UNC Charlotte (2019)

Recent grad Parks Sadler said he first became interested in art when he was four years old. He remembers how he would run around his grandma's house with her polaroid camera. "She would get upset with me and say I was wasting her expensive film," he explained. "So, she tried to hide the camera from me by putting it on top of the fridge, but I knew how to climb to the top and continued my photoshoot. Years later, my grandma gifted me this camera and it has followed me around the world. A small – but fun – project was a study abroad exhibition in the Storrs gallery where I showed 100 polaroid images from my travels."

After graduating from UNC Charlotte, Parks is heading to London to receive his Master's of Art in Contemporary Photography: Philosophies and Practices at Central Saint Martins. His coursework aims to challenge the boundaries of photography and explore lens-based mediums as a tool to conduct practice-based research. "There is an emphasis on multidisciplinary practice and not allowing how we understand photography to be rooted in preconceived limitations," he explains."I am most excited about being in a city as large and diverse as London," he continues. "There are so many amazing opportunities for artists in London and being able to tap into that will be extremely valuable for my career."

man holding camera

Parks credits UNC Charlotte and a special professor in the Department of Art & Art History for preparing him for this opportunity. "I worked as Dr. Jae Emerling’s research assistant for two years while at Charlotte," he says. "This, along with him being my advisor for independent studies, and taking nearly all his classes challenged my perspective on image-making. I most likely would not be looking at a program so entrenched in philosophy and experimentation if it was not for those opportunities. The guidance and support offered by Dr. Emerling led me to this degree program at Central Saint Martins. The faculty at UNC Charlotte truly has a personal and professional investment in preparing students for their next steps."

While reminiscing on some of his favorite projects from his time at UNC Charlotte, Parks remembers, "In 2017, I curated a juried exhibition in the Student Union Pop Martin Gallery titled Thresholds. This was an exciting extracurricular project where I learned a lot about organizing, managing, and curating an exhibition. My thesis exhibition is another opportunity where I learned the importance of consistency and experimentation. I worked on my thesis project for almost a year and a half in different iterations before it was finally hung in the gallery."

What advice does Parks have for prospective art students? "When I entered the art program at UNC Charlotte, I had expectations – like many students do starting out – that I was going to be gifted with these skills of software knowledge, camera expertise, etc.," he says. "While I did come out of the program with diverse knowledge in technical skills, this was not the most valuable thing I learned in my time at Charlotte. I was challenged to think critically and question the decisions I made surrounding my artwork. This can be frustrating at times, but learning how to justify your choices, answer/ask the question “why”, and grapple with larger conceptual through lines is a skill that differentiates our students from the rest. My advice to prospective students is to come into the program open and ready to be challenged both technically and conceptually. Most college students expect to attend lectures and seminars whereas students in the Department of Art & Art History engage in conversation and discourse." We wish Parks the best of luck in graduate school!