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A Brief Interview with Lorena Turner

SM: Who are you?
LT: I am Lorena. I identify primarily as an “American” and “female”. I am, like other people my age, a GenXer but recognize an alignment with many Millennial sensibilities.

SM: What are you?
LT: I am most definitely a photographer. This means that I use the still image and still camera as my dominant form of communication. I have a broad range of interests and obsessions, and use my camera as both an expressive tool and a documentary tool. And, yes, those two things are very distinct, and only occasionally cross over.

SM: When are you?
LT: I am of this moment. Though I could have fit very nicely into other moments as well.

SM: Where are you?
LT: I am primarily in New York City or Los Angeles, but I strive to be everywhere all at once. I don’t want to miss anything. Though I am very quiet in expressing this longing specifically. I think it comes through in my work though.

SM: Why are you?
LT: I am so that I can learn and figure out why, and make connections between the why of something and how it looks. I am so that I can ask a lot of questions and know that it’s very possible that I will end up understanding very little in a concrete sense, but just have more questions.

SM: Predominant to your untitled study of New York City streets are blank billboards and Mother Mary statues to indicate a changing New York City. The billboards loom atop buildings and above power lines like some reverse satellite—not collecting information but rather gray steel, industrial projections of forgotten ad campaigns to viewers below. They are also reminiscent of photographs made by your predecessors in typological practice (whom you cite in your statement), Bernd and Hilla Becher’s water towers and other very tall and very vertical structures. The Mother Mary statues in contrast with outstretched arms are welcoming in posture, literally closer to the ground than a building top billboard, and are less industrial, less about progress, and more about tradition. The inclusivity of these two ideas placed together is metropolitan and similar to New York City—a place long regarded as welcoming to many but also a place that asks you buy in to its identity. One’s success lies somewhere between ground and sky, individual praxis and conventional principle. In your statement about this project you say that, “The way a city looks is, on any given day, both summation and confluence of hundreds of decisions made in the years and decades that preceded it.” Not only then does a city reflect identity between individual and convention, but past and present as well. If it is confluence you are photographing, then it is a multitude of streams coming together and the change that results. Share, if you will, the importance of considering the nature of change and why it is important to recognize, anticipate, and document change.

LT: Change in a landscape, in a person, in a relationship, in the surface of a someone’s face, etc. etc. happen at different rates and durations. It wasn’t until recently that I recognized, truly recognized, how temporary everything is, and I don’t mean that in a Zen Buddhist sense, I mean on a practical daily level.

LT: Sure there is a momentum that accumulates and feeds movement in a certain direction, it increases in volume and amasses responses or reactions that underscore it. Then there is a period of deflation. During the deflation period the original form is intact and the idea of momentum in present, if only by reference, but the direction slightly changes to accommodate the specific set of circumstances of that time. Think of a maple tree in the summer – it is bright green, and has a certain shape, height, smell, and shadow shape. Then the amount of sunlight changes in a day and the leaves change color and texture and fall to the ground. The form of the tree is still there with its trunk and branches and roots, but it is very different than it was in the summer. It even functions differently than it did in the summer. When the leaves grow back, it may be fuller than the summer before, or taller, or its branches have a larger span, and as someone who is walking by it you may have different thoughts about it than you did before. It is moving in the same general “tree” direction, but it is most definitely not the same tree as it was in the previous summer.

LT: The relationship we have to our environment, is much of what my current interest is, and reflects these ideas of change. We all live in some sort of external socio-geographical structure – a city, a town, a village, a rural area, etc. How do we make sense, or meaning, out of the visual cues we accumulate as we walk, or drive, through those spaces? We may not be aware of the forces that are in play that create something we see or understand why it endures, or when it disappears, we may not know why, but after watching many of these cycles of inflation and deflation, we become aware of what is constant (the actual physical form), and what is influx.

LT: Why is it important to recognize, anticipate and document change? It may not be for everyone, this just happens to be something that I am particularly fascinated by because it’s one way of saying to myself, “I am here, and I understand that I won’t always be here.” When I was young, my dad made me draw the year on a piece of paper and hold it up to the camera when we’d have our family photos taken at Christmas. At first I thought this was funny if not kind of idiotic, how would I not recognize what year it was? Every year was, in my mind, so distinct. Now I see that this was extremely profound – he understood instinctively how photography can be used, and how time changes our perception of ourselves and of time itself. I often think that my work, which always has some connection to time and its fleeting nature and how people respond to a particular phenomenon, is rooted in my dad’s very simple request.