Soldiers searching bus passengers, Northern Highway, El Salvador, 1983
In the late 1970s Meiselas established her reputation as a documentary photographer with a project on carnival strippers in New England. The work earned her membership in the elite photo agency Magnum, which was founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and others in 1947.
Meiselas spent nearly the next ten years photographing the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. This picture vividly conveys the tension of life during wartime. The harsh sunlight creates looming silhouettes of the bus passengers and soldiers. The long shadows describe bodily gestures of fear, authority, and submission. The anonymity of the scene heightens the drama: it is utterly unknown who these people are, what the soldiers are looking for, and what eventually happened to those involved