OCEANSIDE — The photo exhibit “Between Two Worlds: The United States/Mexico Border” by Pulitzer Prize winner Don Bartletti opened at the Civic Center Library on March 4, with a lecture by Bartletti on his body of work over 38 years.
Bartletti captured images of U.S./Mexico and South American country borders as a photographer for the Los Angeles Times.
He presented a slideshow of photos taken throughout his career, and narrated the story, photo technique and his journey to capture the images.
In many instances he imbedded himself with subjects as they jumped trains, forged rivers, crossed borders, settled in make-shift shelters and performed labor in the U.S.
His photographs also captured the poor villages and family members immigrants left behind, impacts of the cartel and work of smugglers and border patrol officers.
In the 1990s, 10,000 South American undocumented immigrants crossed the U.S. border.
Over the years, Bartletti grew to know individuals who successfully crossed the border, reunited with family, and were later deported or became citizens.
Bartletti said immigration is a collection of personal stories.
He described a photograph of a group of men and boys riding on top of a train they jumped.
“Nobody’s looking back, they’re looking at the promised land, it’s the hopes and dreams of each individual,” Bartletti said.
He said his role as a photojournalist was to remain an observer, gain subjects’ trust, and not change the course of often heartbreaking situations he witnessed.
A focus of his photography was children crossing the border, often to reunite with their parents. In 2003 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work.
In a few instances Bartletti befriended those he met and photographed, and developed longstanding relationships with them and their families.
Sixteen of his photos are on display at the Civic Center Library second floor gallery. The photos show the life of undocumented immigrants in San Diego County during the 1970s through 1990s.
Poignant images include priests blessing immigrants as they begin their journey just north of the Tijuana, Mexico/U.S. border, a worker carrying cut flowers in Encinitas fields and a group of immigrants racing across Interstate-5 before driver warning signs or fencing was in place.
The “Between Two Worlds: The United States/Mexico Border” exhibit is on display through April 22.
The lecture and exhibit were funded by the Californians: community conversations about immigration grant program.
Bartletti resides in Vista, and is working on a book of his documentary photographs, which is expected to be released next year.