Tintype portrait © Geoffrey Berliner, Penumbra Foundation, 2017

Tintype portrait © Geoffrey Berliner, Penumbra Foundation, 2017


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 at 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 among others.  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, Harper's Magazine, Interview Magazine, The Village Voice, and Photograph magazine.  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 Photography Collection. She lives and works in Appleton, WI and is represented by Benrubi Gallery in New York, and David Klein Gallery in Detroit, Michigan.  



Pitch; material used to waterproof the seams of wooden sailing vessels. The blackness of night in winter; the height and angle of a roof. A steep mountain standing at an immeasurable distance; the frequency of sound.

My relationship to photography is essentially a 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.” These images are the result of a similar continuous investigation into the invisible: an identification and interrogation of potential signals.

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

Propelled by a desire to explore ideas of perception, the images often contain something of the everyday to ground them, juxtaposed with something extraordinary or out of the world to set them free from the realm of the everyday. I use my own body within the work to anchor the images within a place of dreams and personal, human emotions.

I consider photography to be both a tool for escape, and an instrument for self-knowledge: a door into the dark.



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").