Dominic Turner – False Friends

I wake under a blanket of gritty black ash; my bare limbs are as swollen and as calcified as the enduring night above me. No rag swaddled or other can be found to leverage my cooling body against the rising cold. I lie as naked as a grape. I turn my head to the side; my neck creaks with a callous disregard for my intentions. There is the faint outline of a framework of ill-placed ladders invading the landscape of my weak vision when I squint. I return my neck to a more “comfortable” position and see small pulses rocketing through the undulating curtains of smoke and settling silt above me. Perhaps they are the vestigial tail of a former setting sun, imploded and reigning above, immune to my body lying softly prone in the carbonized human mist, slowly shrouding me like a pauper’s winding sheet with nobody to remove my fading mass, my skeleeeeetal framing.

My hands twitch, and I stir, looking for something like an extra heap of gravity to reify my reality, to pinion me further to the scratchy and jagged black rocks that try to pierce my torso like an aberrant bed of nails. Like a dormant fakir, I seem to have found my place. My mind flits in and out of memories and premonition mode. I don’t know where this was or when I was. I lie here imagining a future built on sand, domed mammoth bone huts dwelling with their doppelgääääääääänger architecture made of yellowing 1.5-liter water bottles, arched and spread under canopies of oil and rust-smeared tarpaulins sagging in the wind. I imagine the homeowners, troglodytes hammering away at a hubcap inside, wondering at one point they will be heard, marauded, and skinned with a knife re-purposed from a once-fancy umbrella. Their wrecked feet run across the sooty sternums of the deceased to find shriveled canyons between thighs to complete some cycle wired into their cracked and desperate teeth. They abort disgorged and find themselves later repurposed as bow strings like catgut, in the absence of a cat to gut.

Things lie in the distance-craggy cliffsides that amuse me with their pareidolic sneers. Thick with choking dust, roads recede off to my left, and just to my right, the faint outline of commerce, signage directed toward my predicament—the formation of the word PAIN, which I read aloud with a wheeze. I remember out loud ski trips, family holidays at the lake, the glint of summer’s setting sun bouncing off the warm steel of railroad tracks, the tar melted over the rail ties etching itself into my memory like a post-industrial Proust, though without much regard to the soft poetics that outline my memory of his words. and his shidddd biscuits. Take stock…


The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes but of having new eyes. Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life. MP


In the case of photobooks, I am often at pains to speak about their technicality or conceptual rigor. I sometimes wish to simply feel their atmosphere, to imagine an alternate place where I am not forced to read the work in a particular manner but am left to think through what I see and imagine a different world than the author may have intended. I feel as though we might be breaking our arms at times to pat ourselves on the back when we deliver something that needs prior intellectual knowledge to interpret and that in defining the order or intention of a book, we might belittle our audience with gimmicks and let know that we are deeply insecure and desperate. Instead of giving into the morass of the self-congratulatory ambitions of my colleagues, I have begun to drift away from their intentions and their needs toward books that provide me with space to enjoy their possibilities, that do not choke me off with their fingers reaching down my throat to stuff their message into the core of my understanding of the world and its images.

For this reason, I have drifted toward books by artists who are unashamed of creating a loose container for the consumption of their work but whose reasoning is not berating my enjoyment of them. Such is the case of False Friends by Dominic Turner, an incredible book of darkly-tuned images that sit adjacent to the work of Jungjin Lee but with a different nod toward the subject matter. The style of the grain and the sparse nature of the images are reminiscent of the South Korean’s work, but it ends there. For historical precedent, artists like Mario Giacomelli and the Northern Italian School of photobook makers from 1959-1983 incorporated a similar dissolve to their images.

Dissolve is a keyword when consulting Turner’s works. They fall apart into something like a decayed sublime in their reading but hold together just enough to shape wonder and fascination. They are exempt from becoming a steaming pile of mush in their eccentricity. They are, in fact, readable. I am reminded of Ralph Gibson’s earlier work and his penchant for grainy surrealism. Edmund Teske could be another interesting alignment, as well as Frederick Sommer, Clarence John Laughlin, and the aforementioned Mario Giacomelli, particularly the latter’s last body of work. Turner’s photographs offer a dreamy ephemerality that gives license to the imagination. Though the subject matter can be made out, there is something about the images, not just their black-and-white nature, that suggests something of a dream, and they are sooty enough to turn that dream into something uncanny.  It is hard to emphasize their ability to be read as open and inviting, if with an edge. I highly encourage you to pick this book up if you can find a copy. It is one of the most rounded books I have seen from a relative newcomer. It is a refreshing movement toward an enlightened form of bookmaking that has been shelved for too long—highest Recommendation.


Dominic Turner

False Friends


Posted in Contemporary Photography, Europe, Ireland, Photobook, Photography - All and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .