KKK photos capture hate group’s candid moments
Photojournalist Anthony Karen has taken pictures of the Ku Klux Klan since 2005.
By David Knowles / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
New York-based photojournalist Anthony Karen has a knack for getting inside of some of America’s most secretive organizations.
A former Marine, Karen is the author of The Invisible Empire: Ku Klux Klan, and White Pride, both of which document white supremacist culture. In dozens of photo essays, Karen has dealt with American subcultures ranging from skinheads to Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church.
“I have a keen interest in religious ideology and marginalized subject matter. I prefer documenting long-term stories, because I feel a story can always be improved upon; there’s always some nuance that you’ll discover with subsequent trips. This methodology has proven helpful as I develop as a photojournalist,” Karen told Slate in an email.
Having honed the skill of putting his subjects at ease, Karen has gained access and become accepted by groups that many Americans have had little contact with.
“I think a lot of the credibility I’ve earned also stems from my basic philosophy that you need to give some of yourself in order to receive anything back,” Karen told FotoEvidence. “I spend time with people, I listen to what they have to say, and I treat each person as an individual. I don’t have to believe what they believe, but whenever I’m in someone’s space, I feel I’m obliged to observe without judgment. That's not to say I wouldn't intervene if I felt a situation called for it, but I choose to observe moment to moment and simply take in what I see and experience without presumption or pretext.”
Karen got his start as a photographer in Haiti, where he was able to shoot Vodou rituals and pilgrimages that few people outside the impoverished nation had ever witnessed. The transformative experience hooked him to the profession.
“I found myself being overly timid when approaching my subjects,” Karen told FotoEvidence. “I felt I needed to go back. With each return trip my images improved. Photojournalism quickly became as much a part of me as any of my physical characteristics and it continues to feed a unique side of me.”