Erin Neve was born in Texas and is currently living and working in northeastern West Virginia. She received two Master’s degrees from Texas Tech University in Philosophy and in Art Education and an MFA in photography from the University of Minnesota in 2012. Erin has held the position of Assistant Professor of Photography at Shepherd University since 2016 and is a coordinator of the photography program in the Department of Contemporary Art and Theater.
Neve’s work centers on the body – the body as fragile, as material, as a space of interior and exterior boundaries, as a source of abject experience, as a fundamental actor in the formation of identity, as a site of the sublime and the mundane.
Neve’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including venues such as: Soovac Gallery in Minneapolis, Filter Photo in Chicago, GrayDuck Gallery in Austin, and Southwest School of Art in San Antonio as well as in Beijing, China and Turku, Finland at the Peri Center for Photography. Her work has been featured in online publications such Ain’t Bad, Don’t Take Pictures, and Humble Arts Foundation and is a part of several private collections.
2015 – 2016
There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. —Mahatma Gandhi
In 2012, I accepted a job at a religious school, and I found myself observing others acting out sincere devotion grounded in specific bodily rituals. I watched as they bowed, chanted, sung, ate wafers, and prayed. They believed that bodies that ritually perform sacred acts express, or channel, the divine. Guided by a complex history of liturgical tradition, like a dance, these devout practitioners performed for God to make visible that which is invisible.
In Bread Towers, carefully constructed towers of bread act as stand-ins for the physical divine body. The structures are made of bread pieces balanced entirely on each other; they are fragile, dependent on the parts which dictate the existence of the whole. In my studio, I balance these towers as a meditative ritual, an act that requires focus, patience, and a delicate hand. Most towers fall within second, some last minutes. I learn each piece of bread; its materiality, its shape, its density, its center of gravity, its weight, and its limitations. The resulting photographs are quiet still lives of upward grounded pillars of bodily material before moments before they crumble.
2017 – current
Q&A: SHEPHERD UNIVERSITY
Why Shepherd University?
Shepherd University is a small public liberal arts university located in Shepherdstown, WV, just 60 miles from Washington D. C. and approximately 200 miles from both Philadelphia and New York. Shepherd offers a BFA with concentrations in Photography/Computer Imagery, Studio Art, Graphic Design, and Theater.
Students in the Department of Contemporary Art benefit from small class sizes, beautiful facilities with renovated studios and computer labs, close relationships with full-time faculty who teach all levels of classes, and a professional practices curriculum which aims to prepare students in portfolio reviews and Capstone exhibitions. With Shepherd’s close proximity to DC and New York, students in the department also benefit from having access to a wide range of art experiences including at national museums, prominent galleries, non profit spaces, artist studios, and culturally rich and diverse communities. The art department prioritizes travel as a way for students to see and experience art in person and to witness how artists function and create work outside of the classroom.
In particular, the photo program at Shepherd provides students a comprehensive curriculum that begins with a foundational year of classes including both digital and darkroom photography. Other required photo classes include studio lighting, color and software, photographic theory, history of photography, alternative processes, in addition to elective courses such as Landscape, Social Representation, Art and Conservation, and a newly created honors seminar The Age of the Selfie.
What courses do you teach?
I teach Digital Photography, Darkroom Photography, Digital Imagery Manipulation, Image and Meaning (contemporary and photographic theory), Professional Practices I, Capstone, Alternative Processes, and Advanced Print Portfolio. I have also created rotating special topics courses such as Art and Conservation, a course which ends with an international trip to Costa Rica, and The Age of the Selfie honors seminar. I serve as a co-coordinator of the photo program and an academic advisor to photo majors.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
Photography majors are required to take courses in both digital and analog practices and are encouraged to consider the qualities of their final portfolios when choosing which photographic processes to utilize. The photo department facilities includes a large darkroom with potential for enlarging 35mm, medium format, and 4x5 film, as well a lighting studio, a newly renovated digital computer lab, and a digital printing lab with large-format printing stations. The photo curriculum offers courses in large-format photography, alternative processes, and advanced digital print portfolio. In addition to the photo facilities, students also have access to the SU Fastener Lab, an interdisciplinary fabrication space with laser and 3D printers; here, photo students experiment specifically with photogrammetry and other lens-based installation work.
Describe the process of output for photographs.
Shepherd’s photo department stresses the print as the final step of the photographic creative process. Students are taught that each step in the production of their work (shooting, post production/editing, and printing) is equally important in regards to quality, attention to detail, and overall mastery of craftsmanship. Students are expected to present prints for each critique. In their junior year, students take Advanced Print Portfolio where they are taught how to print exhibition-quality digital prints on large-format printers which they will utilize in producing and printing their senior Capstone exhibitions during the spring of their senior year.
Describe the critique format.
Critiques are a central component in all classes in photography, studio art, and graphic design at Shepherd. Beginning with the first semester foundation course Visual Thinking, students are taught how to analyze and speak about their work. Through critical analyses of images by a wide range of artists, students practice the act of looking and studying an image. In intermediate and advanced portfolio classes, critiques are held both as a group and as individual meetings with professors. Critiques often incorporate written components as well as verbal feedback and guided discussions. Visiting artists are also invited and participate in class critiques every semester. In their senior Capstone year, students are required to present their work in a formal portfolio review with outside invited artists and professionals.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?