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In latest collection, photographer finds inspiration in nature, family

In latest collection, photographer finds inspiration in nature, family

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FLORENCE, S.C. – Family and art – these are two pieces of her life that photographer Jen Ervin holds close.

With her latest photography project, "The Arc of Summer," she merges both.

“As a young artist, I felt like my life was compartmentalized, and the pieces weren’t all pulling together,” Ervin said. “Things are starting to all come together.”

The black-and-white Polaroid collection follows the transition of childhood to early adolescence and pays homage to summer, which Ervin said allows for natural growth.

All of the photographs in the collection are taken at the Ark Lodge, a backwoods cabin in Gresham, S.C., that has been in Ervin's husband's family for generations.

By utilizing her children, the lodge and the outdoors, Ervin honors her family’s history and traditions and celebrates a sense of connectivity to nature.

“It’s hard to find these places of nature that are sacred,” she said. “We want them to connect with nature.”

The Ark Lodge has now become that sacred space for her family to unwind. It is a place where they disconnect from the fast-paced technological world and reconnect with nature and each other, Ervin said.

Ervin has always been drawn to nature.

Her mother was an aspiring artist, Ervin said, and the pair spent a lot of time outdoors. At an early age, she said, her mother taught her how to view the world from an artist’s perspective.

She said she loves using a Polaroid camera because it is unpredictable and imperfect.

There can be light leaks and holes, she said, which can either make a photo beautiful or render it unusable.

“I think that’s why I like it,” Ervin said. “You don’t have ultimate control.”

Originally from New Jersey, Ervin moved to Florence when she was 16, attended West Florence High School and met her husband, Francis, at a local record store.

Ervin graduated from Francis Marion University with a fine arts degree. She then studied under Florence native Alston Purvis, son of Melvin Purvis, while getting her master’s degree at Boston University. It was Purvis who really sparked her interest in photography when he shared the work of his friend and master photographer, Walker Evans.

Over the last few years, Ervin's work has been displayed in galleries and museums alongside notable photographers, including William Christenberry, Sally Mann, William Eggleston and Andy Warhol.

She now lives in Charleston with her husband and three daughters but makes frequent visits to the Pee Dee to see family.

Using her children in her artwork has been a wonderfully collaborative process for the family, she said, but it can also be tough.

“It’s really difficult to separate yourself to tap into those universal places where other people can connect to my family,” she said.

Ervin said she is currently working to publish her series "The Arc of Summer" in a book.

To see more of Ervin’s work, visit


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