Susan Meiselas

American (Baltimore, Maryland, 1948)

Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador

photograph | gelatin silver print
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  • Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador

    Susan Meiselas, Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador, 1980; gelatin silver print, 16 in. x 19 7/8 in. (40.64 x 50.48 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

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

16 in. x 19 7/8 in. (40.64 x 50.48 cm)
Acquired 2003
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


shadows, people, authority, civil rights, Central America, military

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