Europe's troubled past comes to light
How a photographer's journey through the European debt crisis stands the test of another difficult time
In the summer of 2012, British photographer Lewis Bush traveled by bus, train, and boat through 10 European Union countries.
Franco-Prussian War monument, Berlin. | (Lewis Bush)
"Everywhere I went I saw the past re-emerging as a result of the economic and political tension on the continent," Bush writes in the accompanying essay of his photography project, The Memory of History. "I saw the way history permeates everything around us, the way it often refuses to behave and obey the intentions of the people trying to use it. I saw all of this and I finally began to see connections emerging, connections between history and the present, and between photography and the past."
Victory arch, Madrid. | (Lewis Bush)
Bulgarian fighter jet, Sofia, Bulgaria. | (Lewis Bush)
Traveling at the height of the European debt crisis, Bush saw how the abuses of the past were bubbling up with the economic pain of the present. Through his lens, both the small moments of simple neglect — the deterioration of a monument, haphazard street graffiti — and big — a brigade of riot-ready police — revealed the ways Europe's unresolved history was coming out of the darkness.
Carabinieri in riot gear, Rome. | (Lewis Bush)
Krupp escalator, Paris. | (Lewis Bush)
Designer boutique, Athens, Greece. | (Lewis Bush)
At the time, Bush bypassed the United Kingdom, which he later regretted when he was putting his project together. "With Brexit, however, that absence suddenly seems to make quite a bit of sense," Bush said in an interview. "The causes of Brexit are not only political, but also have roots in economics, culture, and geography, and I think to really explore it you would need to look at the history that has shaped these things."
"I find it often takes time to understand the significance of what you do as a photographer. You work in the heat of the moment, to deadlines or other restriction, and later [...] you get a better sense of what works and what maybe doesn't," he said. "In some respects, I think The Memory of History has stood the test of a few years quite well, even with all the unpredictable events that have occurred since 2012."
European Central Bank sign, Frankfurt, Germany. | (Lewis Bush)
Political poster, Rome, Italy. | (Lewis Bush)
Memorial plaque, Budapest, Hungary. | (Lewis Bush)