Our institutions and our freedoms are inherently fragile, subject to pressures that can deform or destabilise them. In that respect, a recent drift to the political right can’t have escaped the notice of anyone with an eye for historical parallels, and with it has come a return to the kind of attitudes that once haunted the European continent in even more substantial forms. It seems we have an almost irresistible tendency to keep making the same mistakes, repeating the same destructive patterns, which emerge out of the complex interplay between social and historical factors. Often these can circumscribe future action as much as they enable it, hindering change as a by-product, or to the extent that those in power benefit from the status quo. With that in mind, it is perhaps as good a time as any to re-examine a photographic work that in its own distinctive way takes on this issue of what might be called historical inheritance, precisely by addressing it in those terms, and, in the process, raising often uncomfortable questions about how the reluctance to face a legacy of division and violence can profoundly affect national life.

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