An Interview With: Erin Semple

Who are you and where did you study?

My name is Erin Semple and I just graduated from Edinburgh Napier University.

What is your artist statement for this body of work?

“un-” is an examination of the emotions felt after experiencing the trauma of sexual assault. I deskilled myself by using a point and shoot camera. I documented elements of my life and performed for the camera. By using a camera with limited functions I struggled to gain control over it - but by learning to do so I began to regain control over what I went through. 

What genre do you classify your series to be?

I find it quite hard to classify this series as it doesn't 100% fit into any one genre - it's a weird mix of Fine Art and documentary - but I'd probably say Fine Art as some elements of my series are more performative than documentary.

Was their any photographers who inspired this style of work?

Aesthetically I am influenced by the work of Nan Goldin but I would also say that Jo Spence was a huge influence on my practice as Spence's work is so raw and emotional.

How do you think the outcome of the series would be different if it was shoot on a SLR?

In part I shot this on a point and shoot film camera as it was my own way of challenging the use of point and shoot cameras by women for the family album (as these cameras were advertised towards women as they were so 'simple' to use). I would not have been able to shoot this digitally as being able to review these photos as I took them would have stopped me from making some of the photographs. I think shooting on an SLR would have slowed down my process a lot too and then I don't feel my project would have been as honest as everything would be much more considered - rather than shooting on impulse when I was angry or upset - as I would have more time to process my emotions and why I was taking the image in the first place.

How did you decide what images to use?

I would get my film developed at the chemist and then give a bundle of the accompanying 5x4 prints to classmates and I'd have them make selections and tell me what they thought I was trying to say. From that I'd then be able to understand how a viewer would interpret my work and make more informed decisions about my selection.

What do you hope the viewer gains from the series?

I hope that the viewer gains some insight into how sexual assault survivors feel as there are lots of complex emotions such as anger and shame. I think sometimes people forget that recovery is not a straight forward process, and some days are better than others but other days feel as raw as the day it happened. 

What are you plans for the future?

I'd like to continue studying at some point as I feel I have so much more to learn. I've also been running some workshops recently and I'd love to continue with that as it is amazing to be able to help other people tell their own stories.

What is the best piece of advice you could give the viewers of The Pupil Sphere?

Don't be disappointed with yourself if you have to take a break from photography. Sometimes stepping away from the camera can be the best thing for you and your work. Also to go to everything you can - go to talks and galleries and events in your area, if you have the time to spare you won't be wasting it.

All images copyright of Erin Semple.


Instagram: @_erinsemple

Twitter: @_erinsemple

Daniel AinsworthComment