August 8, 1991. Bari, Italy. As Albania descended into armed anarchy in 1991, refugees fled to southern Italy, including these people who sailed to Brindisi from the Albanian port of Durazzo on a hijacked ship.
This photo by Luca Turi recalls Weegee’s photograph of a holiday crowd on a beach at Coney Island from the New Yorker magazine. There is the same extraordinary mass of humanity on a hot sunny day by the sea. But where Weegee’s crowd was happy, this one is anxious and creates anxiety in the viewer. Since the dismantling of the Soviet Bloc in the late 198s, the boundary between western and eastern Europe has ceased to exist, but the West has not faced up to what that means. Instability and comparative poverty have led to huge movements of people westward and across Europe. The more afflunent states refuse to acknowledge the permanence of this new migration.
This photograph of people fleeing Albania might stand for many other recent waves of forced migration, and the image of a massing of people, a sea of people sums up the anxiety such floods of humanity provoke. Yet, this is a picture anyone can empathize with. It is an image of hopeful, democratic humanity and the comparison with Weegee is not coincidental. THese are the same ‘huddled masses’ who emigrated to America from Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the movement is from impoverished Europe to rich Europe, post-communist Europe to democratic Europe. This picture’s significance is not yet decided. It will be part of the history we make.
— Jonathan Jones, Photos That Changed the World.