Don Bartletti: Elusive Moments–Enduring Stories

Don Bartletti: Elusive Moments–enduring stories

January 23–May 1, 2022

“My approach to photojournalism lies somewhere between cultural anthropology and a scavenger hunt.

Before I step out of the newsroom or my front door, I’ve already spent minutes, hours, days, weeks, or sometimes years of research on a subject. I’m focusing long  before I pick up the camera. Planning can be as simple as reading a weather report or as complicated as understanding causes and consequences of international migration.

Even if I know when the sun will set in Carlsbad or where emigrants will cross the U.S./Mexico border, the essential story-telling moment is inevitably hiding in plain sight.

That’s where the “scavenger hunt” comes in—but it’s not a game. It’s a purposeful search for emotions, personalities, circumstances, and moments that will beg the viewer to critically question or simply appreciate what they see in the picture.  

Besides the subject and me, there are other “authors” to each of my photographs: the camera, the film or memory card, the printmaker, this museum—and you.  All of these are indispensable to the translation of elusive moments into a thought. No matter your spoken tongue, the photograph is a universal language that you can translate with your own accent, emphasis, or opinion—but you have to jump into the picture and wander around for a while. 

So, let your eyes roam through the frame as mine wandered around the camera viewfinder. Focus on the wrinkles, tears, hugs, and smiles. You’ll know what they mean. And gaze beyond the obvious to the background, foreground, upground, and downground and vicariously plant yourself in the same place I was. 

Now you too are an author of these photographs.” –Don Bartletti

Don Bartletti: Elusive Moments–Enduring Stories, installed at OMA

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Visit the artist’s website.



Exhibition Celebration, Saturday, February 12, 2021, 5:00-7:00pm


Header artwork: Tran Thi Nam - age 109 (detail) by Don Bartletti

If you would like to learn more about the artwork, including if the artist has work available to purchase, please email

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