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A Day in the Life of the KKK: Anthony Karen talks trust & photojournalism

Aug 15, 2013 at 02:05 GMT

Photographer Anthony Karen has built a career around gaining access to ostensibly inaccessible societies. After a trip to Haiti documenting Vodou rituals, he has gone on to photograph white supremacist groups, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan. His compelling photos and unrestricted access to the KKK resulted in a collaboration with the Discovery Channel, and slate.com has published an interesting profile of his work, in which he explains his approach. 

A Southern-based Ku Klux Klan member. Photo by Anthony Karen.

In Slate.com's profile of Karen he explains his methods. Of his approach to storytelling, Karen says "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."

A member of the Louisiana-based Dixie Rangers of the Ku Klux Klan displays her custom-made wedding veil as her fiancé looks on. Photo by Anthony Karen.

Slate also quotes an earlier interview with FotoEvidence, in which Karen spoke about earning trust with members of these extremely secretive societies. "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."

Members from a Midwestern-based Klan realm on a flyer drive. Photo by Anthony Karen.

Many photographers will identify with his statement on self-critique: "The more time and experience I amass, the deeper my self-criticism has become, even in editing, but hopefully always for the better of a project. I find I challenge myself more and always strive to go even deeper."

Read the full article from Slate and take a look at more of Anthony Karen's work via the links below.