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August 05, 1993|ANNE LOUISE BANNON

Martin Sugarman is serious about his work, photographing the suffering of people in strife-torn parts of the world. Some of his photos will be on display in the exhibit "Victims of War in Bosnia-Herzegovina," which opens Friday at Occidental College in Eagle Rock.

Yet Sugarman's voice, in a telephone interview, rarely revealed any tension, even when he talked about the shelling and sniper fire and other dangers he faced in Sarajevo.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't feel in danger. Maybe I'm stupid, or blind," he said, when asked why he voluntarily made three trips to the war zone in the former Yugoslavia. "I don't know. I just felt the situation was extreme, but I never felt that my life was in danger."

Sugarman, 46, has been a professional surfer, a painter and a news director at a radio station in Hawaii. The Santa Monica resident now owns a surf-wear company and is working on his Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA.

He became interested in photojournalism last year

on a trip to Cuba, documenting the "last so-called communist country." In June, 1992, when plans to go to Peru didn't pan out, he went to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"I came back here for about three weeks and looked at the film and realized I had to go back," he said. He returned to get more photographs of the soldiers and the fighting, and to shoot the impact of the fighting on the children and of the winter on the people.

When asked if he felt guilty about his relatively easy lifestyle compared to the suffering of most of the people he photographs, he said: "Yes, I do feel guilty. But not if I can do something with these photographs so the world can know what is going on there. Maybe it can help."

The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 30, is at the college's Weingart Galleries, 1600 N. Campus Road. An artists' reception is scheduled Friday from 7 to 10 p.m., and regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission to both the gallery and reception is free.

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