Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Lorena Turner provides an emotional complex personal narrative in her self-published photobook A Habit of Self Deceit. She reveals her lasting emotional trauma sustained during her youth from her alcoholic mother and now after many years, the futility to obtain reconciliation due to her mother’s steady memory decline as a result of very advanced dementia. An investigation into how do we deal with changes beyond our control that do not permit us to find closure in a relationship?
Perhaps due to both my mother and grandmother suffering from advanced dementia, I find Turner’s visual symbolism very poignant with an underlying sadness. Turner is dealing with her mother being present while being absent to all of her past memories, thus a living shell of who she once was, for better or worse. Turner narrates conversations that her mother’s husband has with her mother now; not unlike attempting to comfort a person who is in coma or on life support while clinically dead. One talks of current family events, who has done what; vacations, holidays, and other common events to someone who has no comprehension. It brings back sad memories for me; likewise, I see the intermittent sadness and raw emotion intertwined in Turner’s visual narrative.
Turner shares her childhood pain, long term emotional impact, and current attempts to find healing while facing the realization that due to her mother’s lack of cognitive abilities due to the progressing dementia, that no real reconciliation is possible. She will have to live with the fact that her mother who inflicted all of her emotional pain is now incapable of saying “I am sorry”.
She photographed street signs from the back side which does not reveal the signage contents; the text is an unknown mystery. By providing the urban environmental context surrounding the mysterious signs, the reader if left to their imagination; perhaps these signs pertain to the bend in the road seen just beyond the mute signs. A fitting metaphor for someone who is trying to connect with a person who has dementia; the affected person can only verbalize some unintelligent clues and it is up to others to assign some kind of meaning as to what is heard and observed.
One of Turner’s subject’s is a lone structure covered by a tent, perhaps for treatment for termites which is common to living in Southern California, revealing only the outline form of the underlying structure. A wonderful bittersweet symbolism as an attempt to describe a person who is suffering from dementia; we can observe their exterior form, but the inner contents, who they once were, is concealed from us and we have only a hint as to the form of who they once were.
Turner likewise subtly raises questions about situations when there are no longer possible answers; how does one deal with traumatic past memories and loss in the face of the current reality? This is similar to situations with the unexpected and sudden passing of friends or family; conversations that have been left hanging without any possible chance of a conclusion. A discussion that was planned for a later day that will never occur. How does one cope with this?
Nevertheless, Turner continues her visual quest as she states about how she works on reconciliation with those who are left as well as attending to understand who she is, thus instilling a sense of hope even in the face of this daunting adversity.
Lorena Turner – A Habit of Self Deceit copyright 2017
Photographer: Lorena Turner, born Camp Springs, MD, resides in both New York and Los Angeles, (USA)
Self-published, released in late 2018
Essays & captions: Lorena Turner
Hardcover book (printed paper glued to boards), sewn binding, four-color lithography, printed in Belgium
Photobook designer: John Hubbard