October 27, 2015

Seeing the Same Migrant Tide At Wonderfully Different Scales

It could only happen on a story this large, with the demand, also, to capture the scene just a little differently than the competition. The photos were taken between October 19th and the 25th, the first capturing migrants in Croatia, having just passed over the Serbian border, and the rest, from Slovenia after migrants crossed Croatia, the countries attempting to limit access after Hungary shut its borders.

In the last three photos, we see migrants tightly clustered in a long column on a narrow country road under police escort. If the historic, massive and seemingly unendless human tide through Europe challenges one’s perception, these complimentary, but marvelously distinct windows help us process the great migration at completely different scales.

This first photo is the most artful and abstract. Shades of Abby Road, perhaps, but also borrowing from Ghandi, the lighting and the contrast of the bare feet with the shoes  and the stripe on the asphalt turn the flight into a pilgrimage, conveying a sense of destiny as well as an almost religious intent.

Variants of this shot from Slovenia have been widely published, the infusion of politics from the escort giving this photo an almost opposite sense from the first.

Why do the riot police need to be leading people up the road? The crowd seems harmless. Are they protecting the citizens from the migrants or the migrants from the citizens? If anything, given how the crisis is stoking such political antipathy, the photo also evokes some memory of the horrific long marches of WWII.

Shot from a drone, this shot and the next stress the spectacle and the demographics. Returning to symbolism again, we see the migrants as a human chain bisecting the ordered Balkan countryside.

Or a human train. Or, a new agent entering the European blood stream.

(photo 1: Dado Ruvic/Reuters caption: Migrants walk along a road after crossing the Serbian border from Serbia in Babska, Croatia, Oct. 19, 2015. The Balkans struggled with a growing backlog of migrants on Monday after Hungary sealed its southern border and Slovenia tried to impose a limit, leaving thousands stranded on cold, wet borders where tempers frayed. More than 10,000 were stranded in Serbia, the United Nations refugee agency said, with more on the way but nowhere to go. photo 2: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters caption: A mounted policeman leads a group of migrants near Dobova, Slovenia, Oct. 20, 2015. Slovenia’s parliament is expected to approve changes to its laws later on Tuesday to enable the army to help police guard the border, as thousands of migrants flooded into the country from Croatia after Hungary sealed off its border. photo 3 & 4: APTN caption 3: Some 62,000 refugees and migrants have reportedly arrived in Slovenia in the last week. caption 4: Thousands of refugees and migrants have been pictured weaving their way through Slovenian fields as they try to reach western Europe.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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