Bartletti turns lens to immigration struggles

Before the start of the lecture, the featured photojournalist Don Bartletti, chatted with the author of one of the exhibition reflection essays, Dr. Adrian Vazquez, Assistant Professor of Public Administration. The lecture presented the reasons people leave their home countries in Latin America. Reasons include poverty, gang violence and the search for parents who left them behind to come to the United States. / photo By Kaung Myat Tun
Before the start of the lecture, the featured photojournalist Don Bartletti, chatted with the author of one of the exhibition reflection essays, Dr. Adrian Vazquez, Assistant Professor of Public Administration. The lecture presented the reasons people leave their home countries in Latin America. Reasons include poverty, gang violence and the search for parents who left them behind to come to the United States. / photo By Kaung Myat Tun

Emily Lau
Staff Writer

Photojournalist Don Bartletti described his experience traveling through Mexico and Central America during the lecture for his exhibit, “Uneasy Neighbors: Causes and Consequences of Undocumented Migration to the United States,” Thursday in the Campus Center Ballroom.

The exhibit is currently on display in the Carlson gallery.

In 2003 Bartletti won the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography for his photographs that portrayed the dangers people faced when traveling to the United States and crossing the border.

He has been a photographer for 42 years and currently works for the Los Angeles Times, where he has covered news stories ranging from storms to the Super Bowl.

“Those are news, but even (the stories about) Afghanistan and Iraq will go away some day, but you know the story that’s never going to go away? This one,” Bartletti said. “This one is forever, it’s a never ending story.”

In a completely dark room, about 60 students and faculty members listened as Bartletti presented a slideshow of the photos he took in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, while he explained the backstory and his feelings when capturing these moments.

He has been covering the topic of immigration since the mid-1980s and believes that with his camera and technology, he has the tools needed to bring the truth to the public.

He documented the daily lives of migrant workers in the United States, but also exposed the gruesome and sometimes bloody tragedies some people encounter as they make their trek north.

Young children are often victims of gang shootings, smuggling, drug trafficking and horrible accidents, but Bartletti did not shy away from revealing these photographs.

“These things are hard to look at but I want you to see them because I don’t want you to forget that drug trafficking is not a celebration like it is in the movies or books or novels, because it’s uglier,” Bartletti said. “It’s way uglier than Breaking Bad.”

Bartletti experienced the struggles firsthand as he has accompanied teenagers on their journeys and learned their tricks for how to survive, such as jumping onto moving trains and rationing food.

Many of his photographs tell the stories of the individuals he followed. One of the boys, Enrique, inspired Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario to write “Enrique’s Journey,” which is the book the University chose for its “One Book, One University” program this year.

Some pictures evoked audible emotional reactions from the audience.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, but you should respect one’s country,” said Jesica Le, a sophomore chemistry major, regarding a photo that showed a Mexican-American girl ripping a United States flag during a demonstration.

Bartletti ended the lecture with a personal story about Denis Contreras, who was 12 when he left Honduras by himself and began his search for his mother living in the United States.

“Don is a … hardworking and concerned photojournalist whose daily assignments are wide-ranging and arduous,” said Gary Colby, photo department chairman, who brought Bartletti to campus.

Bartletti’s exhibition will be on display in the Carlson Gallery until Oct. 10.

Emily Lau can be reached at emily.lau@laverne.edu.

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