Through the Lens of A Legend
A bandana-clad gang member who emerged from the Oaxacan jungle approached Don Bartletti and pulled out a foot-long machete as a nearby train roared to life.
December 20, 2014
A bandana-clad gang member who emerged from the Oaxacan jungle approached Don Bartletti and pulled out a foot-long machete as a nearby train roared to life. Bartletti, a veteran Los Angeles Times photographer documenting the immigration of Latin Americans to the United States, had survived countless precarious situations during his career, but that day in 2000, he was alone. “It was my worst nightmare come true,” he said.
The shrewd photographer used words to talk his way out of a violent attack. He offered to take the man’s picture, which the gang member declined. Eventually, they parted ways — Bartletti on foot and the gang member on the train. They never saw each other again.
Bartletti, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his portfolio on the L.A. Times story “Enrique’s Journey” shared such stories at the University of La Verne, which hosted an exhibit of Bartletti’s work in the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography from August to October.
The exhibit, “Uneasy Neighbors: The Causes and Consequences of Undocumented Migration to the United States,” brings Bartletti full circle. He exhibited “Enrique’s Journey” photos at La Verne in 2003. The recent shows include additional images, from a lifeless 6-year-old Honduran girl shot through the heart by gang members, to immigrants running across Interstate 5 in San Ysidro, Calif., toward their American Dream. He says the photos update the immigration discussion.
“While pundits take sides on the issue, Bartletti’s work approaches immigration from all angles and without bias,” said La Verne Photography Department Chair Gary Colby. “What you see in these photographs is the soul of people in need.” The exhibit is one of four the department is holding this year in celebration of the gallery’s 25th anniversary.
Bartletti says despite dedicating more than 30 years to newspaper photography — much of that time focusing on undocumented immigration — he has no plans to give it up any time soon. And even when he does, the country’s immigration debate will live on. “It’s the never-ending story,” Bartletti said. To learn more about upcoming exhibits, visit sites.laverne.edu/photography.