Salgado exhibition 'Exodus' explores world of migrants, refugees and exiles

— Young children play in the dirt behind a towering bramble of barbed wire; an exhausted woman cradles her infant beside a spluttering campfire; an old man crouches in the straw and stares disconsolately at his worn boots.

Sebastiao Salgado's striking images portray the world of the dispossessed -- migrants, refugees and exiles of the famines and wars of the past decade.

"Exodus," a collection of 350 black and white photographs on view at London's Barbican Gallery, explores the phenomenon of mass migration at the end of the 20th century and is the first major showing of Salgado's work in Britain in 10 years.

The show also is touring Maine, under the title "Migrations: Humanity in Transition and the Children," through March 23, at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine College of Art, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, University of Southern Maine, University of Maine Museum of Art and the University of New England.

"This exhibition tells the story of humanity on the move," says the Brazilian photographer, who honed his craft with the Gamma and Magnum agencies. "It is a disturbing story because few people uproot themselves by choice."

From 1993-1999, Salgado traveled to more than 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Central Europe and Latin America. He focussed his lens on migrants on the road and refugees in camps and urban slums.

The exhibition chronicles some of the major political events of the past decade: genocide in Rwanda; ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia; the continuing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The images intimately capture the effect of such events on individuals.

In one photograph, a young boy stands in a plowed field before a stationary wagon train -- the home he shares with 120 other refugees in Croatia. In another, an Afghan man walks down a Kabul thoroughfare, past shattered buildings stretching into the distance like a row of decaying teeth.

Viewers of Salgado's work are left to draw their own conclusions.

"I am not a judge of what's good or what's bad. My pictures are only a cross-section of what happens through this cycle of displacement and migration," he said.


AP Photo

Visitors look at some of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado's photographs in his exhibition at the Barbican Gallery in London. "Exodus,"' a collection of 350 black-and-white photographs, explores the phenomenon of mass migration at the end of the 20th century and is the first major showing of Salgado's work in Britain in 10 years.

Salgado was born in 1944 in the rural state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He trained as an economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Paris and, in 1971, traveled to Rwanda for the International Coffee Organization to report on the efficiency of plantations. But taking snapshots of the trip with a borrowed camera proved more pleasurable, and his photographic career was born.

According to Eamonn McCabe, former picture editor of The Guardian newspaper, Salgado went on to produce some of the most iconic and overwhelming images of the last three decades.

Salgado says he hopes the exhibition, which is complemented by a series of talks, discussions and poetry readings, will provoke a debate "so that we can discuss the human condition looking from the viewpoint of these displaced peoples around the world."

"I hope you will be quite a different person when you leave this exhibition," he added.

"Exodus" will be on view at the Barbican Gallery until June 1.

From Feb. 1, 2004-March 28, 2004, the show will be on display at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Durham, N.C. The exhibit moves to the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., from Feb. 1, 2005-March 31, 2005.


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