The KKK Opens Their Doors to a Photographer, This is What He Saw

The KKK Opens Their Doors to a Photographer, This is What He Saw

Chain smoking indoors, flashy attire, extravagant ceremonies, and not so extravagant living quarters is what photographer Peter van Agtmael captured during his time hanging out with members of the KKK. 

Although I am Native American Indian and obviously oppose the group and what they stand for, the mystification of the culture is similar to that of my own. You hear about the KKK here and there but we don't notice their presence unless someone is hurt or killed by a member. I place great value on photographing everything, the good bad, ugly, dangerous, and controversial for the public to see and learn from. We often can't rely on mainstream media to visually take us to these places on the outskirts of society. Like my Native culture, no one sees us until photographers choose to go there. 

By Peter van Agtmael /Magnum Photos

By Peter van Agtmael

The wedding of two members of the KKK in a barn in rural Tennessee. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

The wedding of two members of the KKK in a barn in rural Tennessee. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

Following the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, I was curious to see the lives of the hate group beyond the violence we watched a few weeks ago. Although the group has been in headlines since the attacks in Virginia, there is little to be found on the lives they live when they aren't out rallying for their beliefs. While their crimes are popular on the news, I think it's important these images by Peter van Agtmael during his time spent with members in their private lives are seen. 

The wedding of two members of the KKK in a barn in rural Tennessee. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

The wedding of two members of the KKK in a barn in rural Tennessee. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

A KKK members puts away his robe after a BBQ and cross lighting/burning ritual in Maryland. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

A KKK members puts away his robe after a BBQ and cross lighting/burning ritual in Maryland. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

A member of the KKK after a cross lighting/burning in Maryland. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

A member of the KKK after a cross lighting/burning in Maryland. (Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos)

Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos

Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos

Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos

Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos

Peter Van Agtmael is represented by Magnum Photos. More of his work can be seen on his website.


[via The Washington Post]

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78 Comments

Anonymous's picture

Too bad he didn't provide text. These photos aren't particularly useful without context. Two people can look at the same photos and have different reactions. Having lived in rural Tennessee, years ago, I'm sure my reaction is at least a little different from someone's who has never encountered these kinds of people in their daily lives. I'm not in any way defending their prejudices but that's not the whole story.

Rex Jones's picture

When you put it that way, the story really becomes that much more interesting, to me at least. I grew up in Tennessee (also in a rural area) for the majority of my childhood through teen years and I would have never even guessed that there were any meetings/rituals/etc. of this sort. Seeing a companion piece, including shots of these same people at home or work, would be fascinating to compare with this one.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

My guess is that they didn't give much info as to what the significance of their behavior is. OR he chose not to share it because he wanted you the viewers to see it through your own eyes and form your own raw conclusions from his photography.

Anonymous's picture

When I see photos like these or those taken of ISIS fighters, etc. I always wonder how much of it is real and how much is for the camera. Well, thanks for posting them anyway.

Anonymous's picture

I think you're overthinking this. Ms. Colton hasn't shown the bias you appear to be addressing. And I am VERY conservative.

Anonymous's picture

Okay. I believe you.

As for the use of the word "native," like many words, it has more than one meaning. Her use was in identifying her genetic heritage as a "Native American". Yours, of course, identifying your birth place. Perhaps it's unfortunate, for clear dialogue, they share the same word.

Anonymous's picture

You could restate your question, using people descended from Asian Indians and Native Americans (or American Indians if you prefer). There is a clear and obvious difference. North American Society, as a whole, decided to correct Columbus' error with the use of the term "Native American". Roll with it. As an interesting side point, South American's don't particularly appreciate citizens of the USA identifying ourselves as "Americans." You can't please everyone but you can disagree without being disagreeable. :-)

Anonymous's picture

Okay. I give up. There's no reasoning with you. BTW, what happened to your Power Rangers uniform?

Alex Cooke's picture

I think Patrick is referencing the fact that he recognizes you from your old accounts, Peter Brody/Pete Miller.

Anonymous's picture

I'm surprised you "outed" him.

Thought as much... the guy is on a mission. FStoppers is probably one of many platforms he ignorantly posts on.

For someone who claims to "debate" you seem to indulge in name calling which is a cheap way to discredit the opposition without substance in ones argument.

Lee Morris's picture

Pete, Peter, and Bob... I am the "weak" owner of Fstoppers.com. As I said in my private message to you before, we actually do appreciate you being here. You comment more than any other Fstoppers reader. We just ask that you tone your comments down a bit. You have a "tone" which is so obviously you, that we have figured out that it's you 3 separate times with 3 separate user names. If you're a conservative that's great, and feel free to comment from that angle, but just remember this is a photography website and every article doesn't need to become a political argument.

Anonymous's picture

Funny!

Lee Morris's picture

Of course I would!

Alex Cooke's picture

You insist on a strict adherence to a narrow definition of a term you've prescribed to a word to avoid exclusion of a group (yours) under the widely accepted usage. Do you understand that that is the textbook example of political correctness?

Alex Cooke's picture

Bob Brady/Pete Miller/Peter Brody/John Baker/whoever you are, I pointed out an error in your logic and you attempted to redefine the term, which is ironic given your obsessive attention to semantics (it's also appropriation of the term for your own purposes). Here's the definition of political correctness:

noun
the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

You have mentioned in the past that you think white people are discriminated against, and now, you have railed against the use of "Native American" because it excludes people who are not American Indian but were born in the Americas, i.e. you do not approve of the use of a term in a manner that excludes a group of people who (you believe) are discriminated against, i.e. you are being politically correct *by definition*. The fact that you've now undermined your own rallying cry doesn't make this fact any less true. If you want to stick to semantics so badly, use the dictionary definition, just as I have here, and just as you fall back on as fodder for an argument so, so often. The simple truth is that I played your game by your rules and it backfired for you, and that makes you angry.

Also, I never said I was against political correctness. I pointed out the irony of you being politically correct when you call it the "scourge of Western civilization." Anyway, my part in this discussion ends here; I don't find much value in debating someone when I don't even know who they are, no offense intended by that statement.

Alex Cooke's picture

Oh Bob. I spoke of abstracted logic devoid of political leanings to make a linguistic observation and point, and you just couldn't divorce your biases and unrelenting anger from that to consider something rationally. You are not the authority of definitions of words (nor am I) and to portray yourself as such and shift (or in this case, deliberately ignore and substitute your own definition that conveniently excuses you from the very behavior) is a disingenuous attempt to patch up a hole in logic. Changing the rules of the game because they no longer favor you is exceedingly immature. Too bad, I always prefer discussions to impasses.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Out on the reservations, there's no such thing as political correctness. We are happy, fun, carefree people, we feel complete just breathing in the fresh air and being with our families. Our languages are simple because we know excess words as seen in your comments bring no good into the world or to others. We don't have words of hate like English is filled with because we love other humans and we love our earth.

We call ourselves Indians, you know why? Because if my ancestors spoke of their True tribe's name, they would have been shot in the head by your great great great grandparents. When the fur trappers took my ancestors to our reservation in Oregon, they marched them hundreds of miles barefoot in the dead of winter. When the Europeans finally let them stop and stay in the un plentiful are of land they chose we deserved, you know what they did?

They gave them white Catholic names, they wrote these names in a book that was kept in the little Catholic church they forced them to attend.

Sam, Jenny, Joseph - my real ancestors, look them up: Last names Riggs and Shangretta. Ever heard an Indian legend with a character named Jenny? NO you haven't because before your people nearly killed us off, we had culture.

Anyways, if my ancestors EVER spoke their Indian names out loud or even a single word in our native languages, they'd be shot or shunned into the woods to starve and die.

Next time you want to make a comment claiming to know the "Right" way to classify my people, come talk to me and I will give you all the correct info you need. The word "Native" OR Ïndian" you will find isn't even relevant or an accurate description of anything.

______________________________

Your people took 30 different tribes and bands that spoke thirty different languages and stuffed them in my reservation in Grand Ronde. And that makes me a mixture of Chinook, Umpqua, Rogue River, Kallipuyan, Molalla and Shasta....

I speak Chinuk Jargon, not Ïndian"

Here's my tribe's website if your open minded enough to take a look, you will find that the word Indian OR Native is nowhere to be found, my friend....
https://www.grandronde.org/

The ONE and ONLY reason I even use these two words is that If I said I was Chinook and Umpqua, you wouldn't have a clue what I meant because sadly your government hides us from you in fear we will show you a free way of life without pharmaceuticals, alcohol and first world problems such as your own.

__________________________

Here is an incomplete list of the tribes in the United States, we are not Native, we are not Indian. We are these... A whole lot of Tribes huh?

We are neither Native or Indian, which is all you know? We are individual completely separate at one time, totally different languages and complete different cultures.

You should really stop believing everything your government tells you to believe....

You only live once a man, be positive, encouraging and kind, you will be a lot happier I promise.

If you have trouble finding this, go sit in a sauna once a week for an hour and go on a walk every night to heal, it will kill the fungi and illness in your body and hopefully bring some new good energy in to your life.

It's a good day to be alive.
Walk in peace and many blessings to you :)

__________________________
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Gabrielle Colton's picture

Some of the happiest people I have met are living in poverty and have many problems, our happiness does not come from our perfect lives, it comes from the way we handle our problems. Our communities are happy and full of life because we handle the issues of drug use and alcoholism with culture. The new generations of Indians, are getting away from the substances because we have brought back our cultures and languages in many tribes. We have youth prevention programs in my tribe, that teach kids to be sober their whole childhoods.

Drugs, alcoholism, and suicide are high on reservations, but we are close communities that do everything we possibly can to heal these wounds, and that is why we are happy. Americans are unhappy often because they heal sicknesses like these with bandages and never heal the real rooted problems like the way children are raised, environment, general morals.

You identify between the meanings of the word using common sense. You seem to be lacking this or are just looking for a reason start something.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

I knew you wouldn't take a single thing from my response, therefore, I do not care to check my grammar when responding to you.

You are done learning in life. Apparently, you know all there is to know about the world. So why are you here?

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Thank you very much!

Robert Nurse's picture

If I were walking down the street and the KKK were on one side and Antifa was on the other and I had to choose, the choice for me would be very simple. The KKK hates everyone except? Antifa hates facists which equates to? The KKK's history in America is inconceivably violent. People trying draw comparisons between the two groups while glossing over this history are, frankly, ridiculous.

Anonymous's picture

I don't know. I certainly wouldn't equate them but when you're being beaten by someone for no reason, the difference doesn't matter. Members of Antifa have been violent toward innocent bystanders. Recently, I've read about several instances of some members attacking reporters et. al. On the whole, though, I see your point.

Anonymous's picture

Total disconnect from reality, raving prose style does not help.

Christopher Nolan's picture

Easy there MrSnowFlake, ... perhaps you should calm yourself, .... Hey, I have an idea, go take some photos, ...... and just to let you know ANTIFA is not a group, it is a concept, kind of like when we fought Hitler, and won, same thing, ..... i know that might be hard to grasp, a group of people getting together for one common purpose, to face, and shut down hate when it rises, .... now maybe hate a little less, and love a bit more, .... ;)

Christopher Nolan's picture

You have a lot to learn about life Mr. Snowflake

Christopher Nolan's picture

You are so very sad MrSnowflake, so very sad

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