A Habit of Self Deceit by Lorena Turner

Issue 106

Gregory Halpern’s book “Zzyzx” came out one day after my father called the police and had my mother removed from the house. They didn’t know of each other. They still don’t. In fact, the proximity of these two events happening so close together may seem anecdotal at best. However, it happened like that. My mother, who has been an alcoholic for most of my life, drank wine morning after morning that September. She’d forget that and then drank vodka in the afternoon. In her resulting state, she’d follow my father around the house and berate him. Loudly. Sometimes she’d hit him. He put up with it for months. He never told me about it; my brother did.

Finally, when he’d had enough, he called 911. They told him they couldn’t do anything to help him. Three hours later, he called again. This time they sent two police to their house. When he told me about it three days later, I replayed the image of my well-dressed 5’1”, 85-pound mother being handcuffed and led out of their light yellow pseudo Mediterranean four-bedroom house and into a police car. The neighbors surely must have noticed.

After my dad called to tell me about it, I flew to be with him. My brother was there too. After thirty years of semi-estrangement it was this event that brought me back into my parents’ lives. It was on the flight to see them that I first encountered “Zzyzx”, and as a resident of Southern California for almost 20 years, the story in that book was something that I knew. Intimately. And I hated it. I’ve always wrestled with the common uncommonness of the landscape of Southern California. To me it is both captor and liberator. But what got me most about that book was the way it celebrated things (landscapes, people, objects) that are, in the context of my life, mundane, if not downright ugly.  

It was the convergence of these two events that brought me to the work I’ve done for my latest book, “A Habit of Self Deceit”. As I was re-entering my parents’ lives, learning about who they are at the ages of 87 and 78, I was looking at the world through this new framework given to me by Gregory Halpern. Isn’t that what photography does best? It is a series of visual legacies that we internalize and respond to, either consciously or unconsciously. In my case, both things – newly spending time with my parents at the end of their lives and “Zzyzx” - turned me inside out. The evidence of this is on every page.

Lorena Turner lives and works in New York, New York and Los Angeles, California.
To view more of Lorena's work, please visit her website.

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Tented building

 
 pressed bird

pressed bird

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red berries

 
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Red faced Jesus

 
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