Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography

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Lauren Semivan

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Are your series meant to be viewed as completely autonomous or are
they chapters in a larger group of work? Each series seems to build
upon visual and conceptual themes of prior bodies, but all decidedly
unique. How are these series meant to function separately and

I don’t think of anything I do as ever really being completely autonomous, especially these smaller chapters of my body of work as it continues to evolve over time. I do think it’s really interesting to consider what we accomplish as photographers as part of a much larger story that we are writing. Most people would agree that art reflects who we are in some way, and also the ways in which we interact with the world and with one another. Certain elements of these interactions never change, and there are many questions that persist. The investigation itself is the most important part, I think. I would imagine that most artists agree that some of these questions can never really be completely answered anyway, and that this problem itself is beautiful. I am conscious of slowly building or uncovering a very specific psychological place over time within my work. 

Can you talk more about the physical process of constructing the
images? I’m interested in the mystical, almost alchemic variable to
the images. They seem very organic and intuited. How did you find this
process and was it something was completely intrinsic to you?

Sure, I work within a large blank space incorporating painting and charcoal drawings, found objects and other materials as a continually evolving stage within my studio. The physical act of creating the work has become much more complicated over time. Initially, I think I was mostly curious about how these materials and objects themselves could be translated when photographed within this laboratory setting. I was thinking about how much I could take away and what was left. There was also the atmosphere of the studio and the quiet black space inside the camera. I was working with a black space and thinking about the physicality of the objects. Now I am more interested in assembling the greater parts of the whole. You’re right, the alchemic, intuitive (but also scientific) aspects of photography are what keep me working. I think all photographers, maybe, are trying to resolve the physical and the ineffable. I am also conscious of the transformative power of the lens itself as a tool, how it can elevate the mundane and create new worlds. On top of this problem, the way we interact with photographs is also fascinating to me! Photographs are so complicated! It is challenging enough having to animate a flat square or rectangle, and that itself is almost alchemical. These formal and material restrictions, a result of the nature of the medium itself, are so tricky…this is a beautiful problem, and much more interesting to me than seeing the space itself as an installation, or as a performative act without these added layers. So, I think my work has evolved as a result of working through these problems, conceptually, formally, maybe also metaphorically.

I think it’s interesting how you talk about the restrictions of the
medium; camera, lens, the registration of three dimensional space in
two dimensions, and the frame. In a way, you’re acknowledging
photography as having a unique language to be interpreted and
understood. You’re also acknowledging the perhaps tenuous relationship
the image has with reality. In a sense, it’s a sort of modernist,
formal investigation into the medium– however, revisited to
incorporate the idea of the image as unreliable and illusory–
especially now in the digital age. Through your own agency, and
physicality, you’re manipulating and the controlling the environment;
would you consider doing this digitally? Do you feel at all
sentimental about the film object as the ultimate end of a series of
decisions you’re making?

I am conscious of the object-like qualities of film, and I know that there are formal historical influences there in my work, but I am not sentimental about these things. I would like my work to exist as part of a continuum, and at a point on a line that is living in present tense, but it needs to retain slowness. I print digitally in order to increase the scale of the final images, and working with large format 8″x10″ film lends the images more physicality in the resulting digital print. I think more so than preserving these modernist ideas about the art object as a shadow of the real, I am interested in preserving a performative aspect involving time and concentration. I had a conversation with someone recently about the idea that working this way requires a “retro” skill set. Even though there are faster or more efficient ways of doing something, that something is lost in the process. My work needs to be made as a result of a meditative processes in order to function the way that I want it to.


See more images at Lauren’s website


Written by DetroitCCP

July 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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