A new exhibition on London’s Southbank will bring together work by nearly 20 Magnum photographers depicting refugee crises over the past 70 years. The exhibition is part of Amnesty’s 'I Welcome' campaign which calls on the UK to share responsibility in responding to the refugee crisis, and marks the lead up to Magnum Photos’ 70th anniversary next year.
The exhibition presents a visual representation of the scale of international displacement since the end of World War II, putting a human face to the statistics and news stories. The photographs on display illustrate the reasons many are forced to flee, the journeys they face and for some, the end point of safety. The earliest photographs on display are Magnum co-founder David ‘Chim’ Seymour’s images of child refugees in Greece in 1946, counterpointed with Chien-Chi Chang’s photograph of a mountain of lifejackets abandoned in Lesbo taken just earlier this year. From Philip Jones Griffiths 1968 image of those fleeing their homes in Vietnam in 1968, to Thomas Dworzak’s Chechen refugee children playing in the snow in Russia in 1999 and Lorenzo Meloni’s recent image of a Syrian family in front of the rubble which used to be their home – the photographs provide a small glimpse into the narratives of the those uprooted in the past decades and offer an historical context to the current refugee crisis in Europe.
Magnum was founded in 1947 by photographers Robert Capa, David ‘Chim’ Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Rodger. Having experienced World War II, the founders were scarred by the conflict but motivated both by a sense of relief that the world had somehow survived and the curiosity to see what was still there. They created Magnum in 1947 to reflect their independent natures as both people and photographers – the idiosyncratic mix of reporter and artist that continues to define Magnum, emphasising not only what is seen but also the way one sees it. David ‘Chim’ Seymour’s photographs documenting refugee children across Europe following World War II can also currently be seen in the exhibition ‘Children’s World’ at the Magnum Print Room.
Tom Davies, campaign manager at Amnesty International UK, said:
“Photography can be a powerful way of telling a story and these photos remind us that people have been fleeing conflict and persecution throughout history. After the horrors of the Second World War, the international community made a commitment to provide sanctuary to refugees, yet its response to the current crisis has been pitiful.
“Governments are responsible for ensuring the right to asylum, and ordinary people too have a vital role to play in welcoming refugees. Over the years, many people have done just that. Today, across the UK and further afield, the British public are going to incredible lengths to show solidarity with and welcome refugees.
“We want and need the same attitude from our government. There are historical examples of the UK playing a leading role in responding to refugee crises but now, while the government refuses to share responsibility with others for hosting refugees, leaving some of the poorest countries to accommodate the biggest numbers, more and more people are being forced into the hands of smugglers and into risking their lives on ever more dangerous journeys.”
7 – 18 December 2016
(Between Gabriel’s Wharf and the National Theatre)
Magnum Photos Now: Empathy & Photography
8 December 2016, 19.00
Frobisher Auditorium 2, Barbican, London
Join Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur, Director of Creative Content at Save the Children, Jess Crombie, and writer and photographer Colin Pantall as they reflect on the role of photography in relation to empathy. In association with an exhibition of David Seymour's work in the Magnum Print Room, speakers will explore the emotions at the heart of documentary photography.
Tickets £10. Further information and booking here