The Past is Never Dead

Mark Peterson


“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
William Faulkner

“The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”
Barack Obama

I was at Charlottesville on August 12th. Since then I have been photographing the hate that was on display and how it has played out in the rest of the country. I plan to continue looking at it and seeing how it is part of America’s past as well as the present. The Civil War which never ended.

Charlottesville shocked a lot of people. White Nationalist with Nazi signs and Torches marching thru an American city chanting Blood and Soil to support a Statue Of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. What I saw there was what I had seen for many years in the margins of our American politics. Now it was marching lock step on everyone’s 50inch TV screen. Politicians like Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Ronald Reagan and the two Bush’s wrote the successful playbook on the politics of racial hatred, of regional and class paranoia, using buzzwords like welfare queen to inflame the emotions of voters. Now President Trump is calling immigrants animals and defended the white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville saying they included “some very fine people.”

“There is no aspect of Confederate “heritage” that is uncontaminated. The heritage is white supremacy.”
—-Ta-Nehisi Coates

Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the aftermath of his barricading the University of Alabama’s doors received 100,000 letters, mostly of support from all over the United States. About White Americas fear of African Americans Wallace said “They’re all afraid, all of them, Great God! That’s it! They’re all Southern. The whole Untied States is Southern!” Gov. Wallace received 13.5 per cent of the national vote in the election. Trump has used the southern strategy and dog whistles to signal his agenda of racial divide.

David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard said while standing in the shadow of the Lee Statue in Charlottesville “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

In a recent survey 31 percent of the Americans surveyed, and 41 percent of millennials within that group, do not believe that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust …and 15 percent thought people should be allowed to display Nazi slogans or symbols today, while 11 percent said it is acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views.

“Imagine if Reconstruction had actually honored the citizenship of four million freed people—provided the education, political autonomy, and economic wherewithal warranted by their and their ancestors’ hundreds of years of free labor. If, instead of continually re-fighting the Civil War, we had actually moved on to rebuilding a strong, viable South….”
Carol Anderson author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

I am shooting more in Color now bring the focus on the present. I am leaving the street battles going to the homes and communities where people hold onto their hate and traditions passing them onto their children. The daughters of the confederacy just started a youth league to present the Civil War as a noble lost cause. The new politicians who I call Trump’s Children (who have neo Nazi/segregationist past) who are now running for office in the 2018 election. A board meeting of the American Freedom Party which is a white nationalist organization. The Council of Conservative Citizens conference. The Stonewall Jackson flutes of Shenandoah. The massing of the flags by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A school board meeting where they discuss the removal of a Confederate name from a HS. Socials at Plantations. The history books in Texas that misrepresent Slavery. I am exploring how history and myth is used to promote racism. I will look at this Civil War that is still raging in the hearts and minds of America.
‘We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
—-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Mark Peterson is a photographer is whose work has been published in New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Time Magazine, ESPN the Magazine, Geo Magazine and many other national and international publications. He has received several awards including the Eugene Smith support grant for his work on revolving door alcoholics. He has been in numerous exhibitions and museum shows including his work on Low Riders which was in the show Museums Are Worlds at the Louvre in Paris France in 2012. He is the author of book Acts Of Charity published by Powerhouse in 2004 and his book Political Theatre was published by Steidl in the fall of 2016. This year Political Theatre was honored by POYI along with many other awards. Time Magazine named Political Theatre one of the best photography books of the year. In 2017 PDN named Mark Peterson Photographer of the Year for his campaign work and book Political Theatre. His Book Political Theatre was named Traditional Photo Book of the Year 2017 by the Lucie Book Awards.