William Faulkner once wrote that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Oft-quoted and perhaps less often understood, the remark may have more resonance in some settings than others. Given the extent to which amnesia seems to be spreading throughout American public life, Faulkner’s insight may seem increasingly peculiar. (He isn’t read much anymore, and that, too, may be part of the problem.) The question remains of who might be working today to help people reflect on the relationship between past and present, and between collective memory and mass amnesia. One answer to that question is Sergey Larenkov.
Sergey Larenkov blends together photographs from World War II and the present to capture the recurrent disruption, jarring continuity, and inevitable denial of the past in the present. More strange yet is the suggestion that the shiny, visible world of the present is inhabited by ghosts that are continuing to act out their dramas of war and dispossession. If the past can continue so vividly in this virtual world, perhaps war’s destructiveness could recur just as easily in the world we expect to see: a seeming intrusion that fits right in as though it had been there all along. Perhaps it’s not even past.
You can see more of Sergey’s work here.
Photograph from “Siege of Leningrad 1942/2010” by Sergey Larenkov.