Lauren Semivan (b. 1981) was born in Detroit, Michigan. She received a BA in studio art from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and an MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at many galleries and museums such as the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, The Griffin Museum of Photography, The Hunterdon Art Museum, Cranbrook Art Museum, Paris Photo, and The AIPAD Photography Show.  She has taught photography at College for Creative Studies, The Ohio State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Wayne State University.

Semivan has received numerous awards for her work including Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50, and The Griffin Museum of Photography’s Griffin Award.  In 2014, she was a finalist for The John Gutmann Photography Fellowship, and SF Camerawork’s Baum Award for Emerging Photographers. Her work was recently published in Black Forest: Four Visual Poems (Candela Books, 2014) and has appeared in The New Yorker, Artforum, and Photograph magazines.  Semivan’s work is part of permanent collections at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Cranbrook Art Museum, The Wriston Art Galleries at Lawrence University, and The Elton John Collection. She lives and works in Detroit, MI, and is represented by Benrubi Gallery in New York, and David Klein Gallery in Detroit, Michigan.  


ARTIST STATEMENT - Luminous matter

My ongoing body of work has evolved through intense contemplative study and manipulation of a hand-built, sculptural environment.  Within this constructed space, the photographs transcend consensus reality, blurring boundaries between real and fictitious worlds.  Compositions are painstakingly constructed using the large format camera, a tool for both precision and abstraction. 

My relationship to photography is essentially a relationship to continuous questioning about the world and my own experiences. Artists, like physicists, are compelled to study forces running counter to the visible.  As a child, Albert Einstein was inspired by a mystical experience with a compass needle.  In Nadja, Andre Breton’s Surrealist romance, Breton describes a similarly intense emotional response to encounters with the unseen, “I am concerned with facts, which may belong to the order of pure observation, but which on each occasion present all the appearances of a signal…which convince me of my error in occasionally presuming I stand at the helm alone.”  My photographs are the result of a similar continuous investigation into the invisible.  I am drawn to the lens as a tool for exploration of both the common and the sublime.

Propelled by a desire to visually explore ideas of perception, my images often contain something of the everyday to ground them, and something extraordinary, or out of the world to set them free from the realms of the everyday.  I use my own body within the work to anchor the images within a personal place of dreams and human emotions.  I consider photography, paradoxically, as both a tool for escape, and an instrument for self-knowledge: as a door into the dark, or as luminous matter; the physical material that makes up the stars.



The staged photograph exists as a document of a pre-conceived, imagined event. It can be compared to a scientific apparatus, utilizing both control and the unknown. My ongoing body of work combines drawing, an archive of objects, and the human presence as a narrative tool.

In scientific disciplines, a line is classified as an event. Something as primitive as a scrawl on a surface reveals an aggregate of events, intersecting and changing course.  Drawings made on the seamless backdrop describe an emotional space.

Science is inherently experiential, as is art making. Knowing and feeling are not separate, and the whole of the environment can be used as a pedagogic instrument. My ongoing body of work elegantly draws upon a tension that exists between irrational and physical worlds.

Within each image, ghosts of previous drawings create a sense of time suspended, evoking gesture, atmosphere and memory. Photographs allow me to access the extraordinary, to keep a record of dreams, and to employ the unknown.

My interest in photography is interdisciplinary and synergistic, informed by writing, painting, drawing, sculpture, and human experience.  All images are made using an early 20th century 8x10" view camera.  Large format negatives are scanned and printed without digital manipulation in editions of 5 (40"x50") and 10 (24"x30").