Photo Series Gives Insight into the Everyday Lives of the Ku Klux Klan

Photo Series Gives Insight into the Everyday Lives of the Ku Klux Klan

Photojournalist, humanitarian and former marine Anthony Karen spent a decade documenting the lives of Ku Klux Klan members, gaining unprecedented access to a rarely-seen world. Karen’s interest in documenting this society required months of reaching out to Klan members before he was eventually allowed access to an event. First in rural Tennessee, Karen’s work eventually brought him to document groups across the United States. His resulting series, Ku Klux Klan, is fascinating and surprisingly intimate.  

While the Ku Klux Klan’s existence as a controversial organization is well-known, Karen’s photographs provide a unique insight into the everyday lives of its members. The lifestyle of the individuals Karen documents is seldom approached in such an internal, candid way. Although much of Karen’s work in this series features the gatherings and rituals involved in membership, many of the images show regular life as well: a bride’s preparation for her wedding day; a couple shopping for groceries.

In partnership with the Discovery Channel, Karen’s connections made it possible for him to film a documentary about the daily lives of Klansmen: KKK: Beneath the Hood, released in March 2013.  Karen has also written two books on the subject of the Ku Klux Klan, entitled “The Invisible Empire: Ku Klux Klan” released in 2009, and “White Pride” released in 2013.

[via Feature Shoot]

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Akeem Casey's picture

I can't get past the historical hatred of people of color the KKK has to see the intrigue of the article

Then you are missing an important ability in today's society, and that is being able to toss aside emotions while using logical and rational thought. I suggest growing up and maturing. It is important to be able to learn about why people become so hateful so that we may one day be able to lessen the hate and increase tolerance in the world. If you want to be a productive member of society, you cannot just turn a blind eye to the things that are uncomfortable in this world. Problems like this need to be faced, and they cannot be properly faced with attitudes such as yours. If you to help hatred like this go away, then you need to reevaluate how you deal with issues that go against your value system.

i think its absurd that one would like to show the "human" side of the kkk. why would you want to know more about such people? its about as stupid as rolling stone portraying the boston bomber in a glorified manner!

Leigh Miller's picture

+1 to this...silliest project I've heard of this year.

"Why would anyone want to know more?" Are you kidding? What drives man to the seemingly boundless fringes of evil, stupidity, hatred, (any extreme basically) has always fascinated me. There is however a practicality to this fascination. How can one hope to prevent humans from engaging in these kinds of fringes without a thorough understanding of human nature and the circumstances which influence it. Yes, its an emotional topic, but we should not let our emotions inhibit what has potential to be an interesting analysis. In my opinion, people ought to engage in these types of things more often.

so by showing them at the grocery store, we now know why they hate?

I was addressing Mordechai's question "Why would anyone want to know more?", more than the photos themselves. That being said, i feel that the set (in its entirety, on the photographers website) only accomplished one of the two goals i outlined. I think by recognizing the humanity of a group of this nature, we "beg the question" (at least it did for me), but did not answer it. That is an ongoing project that will require much more than a photo set to answer; but we sure as hell wont make any progress by ignoring the situation just because the subject matter makes us uncomfortable or disgusted.

It's documenting their daily routine to show us that they live lives just like ours for the most part. Is it now wrong to take portraits of anyone who has bigoted beliefs? Can we only take portraits of only the most moral, ethical, and outstanding citizens?

You have to remember, that to these members of the KKK, they truly believe what they are doing is right for the world. You can't live so boxed up and assume your values are the only values in the world. These people are similar to Nazis. The Nazis believed they were doing a good thing for the world. It's the same with Middle Eastern terrorists. They see what they do as good. It's no different than our own beliefs. You and I think we are good human beings doing what's right for the world, the main difference being that we don't need to take human life in order to achieve our goals.

The only problem with that philosophy (and this is really not the forum for this) is that there comes a time when you have to take a look and realize what you claim you are doing for the "betterment " of the world is no longer working. Just like the fall of the Berlin wall and the end to Socialism in the Soviet Union, history showed those system were doomed to fail eventually. These people are just a little too dense to know it. They hide behind sheets and hoods and use a twisted interpretation of the bible to justify what they do. With all their rhetoric and posturing, can they honestly say that what they have done has improved society in any way?

If you've reviewed any of Mr. Karen's work you'll realize that he does indeed "get in amongst 'em." This looks like a long haul project-hope he makes it out alive.
Rolling Stone has a fine tradition of covering stories from different angles. Whilst this may annoy conservatives-(re: your comment 2 years ago) It is in keeping with what we expect in journalism. Some stories do make us uncomfortable-for that I support the likes of Mr. Karen, photographers and writers that take on subjects such as this, and publications such as Rolling Stone. Long may they prevail over conformity.

Wow. Why would you want to see a more human side of "bad people"? Because they are PEOPLE, no matter what they did or are doing that you disagree with. Don't get me wrong, the KKK do things that I disagree with 100% of the time, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be documented.

Don't like it? Don't watch. Don't like that they're showing it? Write a letter. Done!

Michael Warth's picture

Anyone else hearing "Dualing Banjos" while looking at these pictures. It might just be me, but the yellow fizzy beer, rebel flag abuse, and the obvious white trash makes me think there are a few in-breads pictured here.

Anthony Karen's work is done well, I'm not attacking him, it's just that these images are so typical of what the rest of humanity (those of us who wish hate would just go away) expects from such a topic.

Looks like Ol boy with the bud heavy and camo hat said no to his soon to be wife/current sister and caught a right hook to the eye. LOL

It's strange to me to see people surrounded by such beautiful land wasting their time on hate. They don't understand what they've got.

These, I don't like to call them people but for my comments sake I will are horrendous. They have a whole lifestyle based around racism, the fact they hate people who have a certain colour skin - that is ridiculous...something they can't change and why should they have to or want to?

And this show, wow I thought teen mom was bad and now this? My goodness - anyone is becoming a known face and in some people's eyes...famous! What is this show going to show us besides them hating people for no reason? Them going to the shop and eating and getting married? Wow - loads of insight there into these inhumane things.

Although it's kind of ironic that you consider them less than humans when they actually do the same with others... Don't you think?

Way to call her out! It amazes me how much people are consumed by hate to see the hypocrity of their own beliefs.

how is it a belief??? Belief of what? HATE. It doesn't amaze me, it saddens me to see people justify these actions of these 'people'.

They are people, not 'people'. They have much different values than you or me, but it doesn't change the fact that they are still people. You're walking down a slippery slope with the way you're presenting yourself. Anyone who does not have the same belief system as you is less than human to you, apparently.

You have to remember, these people don't believe what they are doing is wrong. They have full belief that they are doing the right thing. Most people will not agree with what they are doing, but it does not change the fact that klan members believe they are doing the right thing.

Don't get my explanation confused with justification, as I do not justify what they do. But I recognize HOW they can go about justifying their own actions. Question: when you say you are saddened to see people justifying the actions of these people, who exactly are you referring to?

christian lacasse's picture

Seducing the KKK, OVER 10 YEARS, to the point where they will let you in, and give them publicity, is just as worse as being part of the group. This is no better than prostitution. Anthony Karen should find another subject... he's ruining his life for something he thinks is worth capturing. The KKK deserves no visibility w-h-a-t-s-o-e-v-e-r

David Vaughn's picture

Exaggeration. Exaggeration everywhere.

because ignoring a problem rather than making an effort to understand it or documenting it, just makes it magically go away...

I agree my 1st comment appears a bit strict, but I still don't see why one would even try to rationalize the actions of this historic organization. I don't ignore it but I know enough. And being fascinated by this won't make it any better.

Don't believe everything in the media. The US government is known to create front groups as bogeymen that they trot out in order to scare citizens into passing new laws. Many of these fringe groups are totally controlled by people working with intelligence types of services.

Evidence and sources please?... Didnt think so.

Have you ever heard of Google search? Maybe you should try it sometime.

Ahhh, "google it", a classic response. You know what else i found on google? Apparently Elvis is still alive, aliens made the pyramids and my personal favorite, the fluoride in the water is being used for mind control. Im sorry... but "google it" doesnt really make fore a credible source, and is leagues away from evidence.

You know what though? Because im in a good mood (but mostly because i'm bored), I did google it... and guess what i found? A bunch of unsubstantiated claims layered in a slop of bad logic. No evidence, no solid reasoning, just conspiracies. I cant say Im surprised, although i did find it somewhat entertaining.

Sometimes, the truth is hidden in plain sight. For example, it's possible that at least one of the contributors to Fstoppers is working clandestinely for a foreign government while using photography as a cover.

The next time you're at Google, do a search for "dancing Israeli art students."

Spy Black's picture

Yeah, they're just regular folk...