Photographer Jason Larkin has visited military museums all around the world. And the pictures he’s taken pictures in Egypt, Vietnam, Cuba, and the UK among others shows an intriguing glimpse of how different countries remember their conflicts.
They recall scenes from Dr. Strangelove, or Thunderbirds: the photos taken by Jason Larkin have a simplicity and shared aesthetic that is almost childlike – or shot through a Hollywood filter. Yet these images were taken in military museums around the world, and they reveal how different countries remember war and conflict.
The British photographer isn’t aiming to be political, however. His Past Perfect series – currently on show at London’s Flowers Gallery and set to be published in a book later this year – focuses more on how these museums put together their displays. “I didn’t want to make too much of a commentary on propaganda,” he tells BBC Culture.
“What I became interested in was what really reinforces this view on history and what makes the public think that it’s true – the ways in which this history is being presented, the aesthetic choices being made by the curators and the museum staff.” Between 2008 and 2016, Larkin travelled to Cuba, Egypt, Israel, the UK, the US and Vietnam, looking at how museums in each country take on roles in “constructing ideologies and interpreting cultural identities”.
“The Imperial War Museum in Duxford, just outside Cambridge, is really just war machinery. Those spaces are sold very much as family days out – they can be entertaining, they put on big air shows – but most of the machinery on display is deadly, and has been used for deadly consequences.”
That hasn’t stopped him being drawn in. “I’ve got a one-year-old, and the last time I was in the Imperial War Museum in Duxford I thought: ‘I can’t wait til he’s two or three because I’ll definitely bring him along to these air shows, they’re amazing’.” He acknowledges the attraction of many of these spaces. “I can get pulled into it – it is awe-inspiring, being beneath a huge bomber – I’m not removing myself from it.”
Larkin says it was interesting on how the museums of different countries decided to portray their own histories but there needs to be less propaganda and sanitation and get back to a place of “more authenticity.”
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Photo courtesy Jason Larkin/Flowers Gallery