GREECE. Lavrio. 2005. Two detained Afghani refugees point to the refrigerator on which they wrote (approximate translation) “The Sea of Sadness has no shore”. (Their English translation is “in the open see (sic) dont have border”) Lavrio Detention Center.
© Jim Goldberg / Magnum Photos
I’d been meaning to go to The Photographers’ Gallery for ages. Its right by Oxford Circus on Ramillies Street. and currently houses a downstairs exhibition by Sara Ramo (which combines photography and chaos theories), an upstairs cafe and print room, and a 2nd floor exhibition by Jim Goldberg called Open See, which is on until 17 January 2010.
Bangladesh. Dhaka. 2007. Man at a recruitment center.© Jim Goldberg / Magnum Photos
Goldberg travelled to the Ukraine, Greece, Liberia and Senegal, India and Bangladesh, and documented asylum seekers and economic migrants who left, or planned to leave, their homes in poverty or war or just to make a better life for themselves in Europe. As well as wonderfully scenic photos which really brought to life the characters and desolation of the people he photographed, it is a historical account of the misery suffered by those who dream of a better life in Europe as well as the reality of people trafficking and sexual exploitation. Part of his process was to take polaroids of people and have them describe themselves and their lives, so bringing them in to their own documentary and distancing himself from the process.
GREECE. Athens. 2003. Muzaffar “Alex” Jafari writes about his journey on foot from Afghanistan to Greece via Iran. Now Alex is in school and supports himself by working in a call center.© Jim Goldberg / Magnum Photos
Not only was I impressed with the technical and documentary delicacy of the photographs, he had also started archiving items that the people he had met gave him – forms filled out to summarise torture for the Greek authorities, a koran bound in cotton that had been washed up by a survivor from a sunken boat from Africa to Greece. Some of his subjects were victims of sex trafficking, many had suffered torture at the hands of rebels or the Taliban, or by their hosts in Europe.
UKRAINE. 2006. Larysa, 39 years old. (Translation) “I was a dancer and sold to a man who was a terrorist- he held a gun to my head. Somehow I was rescued and escaped, but the fear has left scars on my heart. (and I will never be the same).” © Jim Goldberg / Magnum Photos
As someone interested in photography, I loved his portraits and his scenery photos, such as one of a small girl standing on top of a rubbish dump, the longer shutter speed turning the wind blowing her skirt into angel’s wings, and for anyone the reality of torture, war and escape are made real. You should definitely try to pop in if you can.
Photographs used with kind permission of The Photographers’ Gallery, London.