All Access: Anthony Karen's Insider Images

From body-writhing voodoo rituals in Haiti, to white-robed Ku Klux Klan initiations deep in the backwoods of the South— photographer Anthony Karen has been able to get access to some of the most notorious and mysterious sub-cultures in the world.



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I can't belive that this country...
allow's such ignorance under the guise of tolerance!....,if you do not sit such people down and teach them for an hour each day they'll remain in that state of ignorance for the rest of their lives.....

Sent by Lawrence Holst | 10:12 AM | 6-23-2008

I did not know that these rituals were still going on; therefore, I thank the reporter for taking the pictures and letting me learn about them.

Sent by hilda | 10:39 AM | 6-23-2008

RE: Lawrence's comment...I don't think "sitting such people down and teaching them" is really a viable solution. Ultimately, we don't have control over other people's minds and opinions, and I hardly think a group of Klansmen would be receptive to sensitivity and cultural awareness classes. The best we can hope for is to stay aware that hatred and narrow-mindedness is alive and well, and to conduct our own lives with kindness and decency in a manner that (hopefully) benefits our immediate surroundings. I really think introducing ourselves to our neighbors and being active in our own communities has a greater potential for positive change than any attempt to "re-educate" large groups of dedicated racists. And I completely agree with Hilda, I am grateful to the photographer for letting us know about these rituals and gatherings, even if I find some of them abhorrent.

Sent by Jessica | 12:16 PM | 6-23-2008

@Lawrence Holst: "I can't belive that this country...
allow's such ignorance under the guise of tolerance!...."

I don't think you know what tolerance is. Tolerant people allow for ignorance because they are tolerant. We don't have to suffer it patiently, of course, but we do have to allow it.

As St. Augustine said, love the sinner and hate the sin. That's what tolerance means.

Sent by Matthew C. Scallon | 12:26 PM | 6-23-2008

As an educator in public schools, I work daily to emphasize respect and tolerance through lesson planning and as a model in the classroom. Anthony Karen's images would be a powerful tool in teaching young adults. I appreciate Karen's ability to respect the people he captures in his photographs and his desire to understand what brought each person to their particular beliefs. Empathy creates understanding and facilitates tolerance. Sometimes the best way to reach an audience is to shock them with the truth of a situation. Karen accomplishes this without pushing a didactic slant which allows the viewer to think independently about the subject. Karen exhibits tolerance in his approach. His work obviously incites dialogue about the subject. Change never happens without dialogue.

Sent by Mindy Clark | 1:13 PM | 6-23-2008

What stood out as I looked at this morning's NPR page was the juxtaposition of the Klanschild across from George Carlin's death notice recalling his famous seven words you can't say on televion. How could anyone not feel that his photo is far more obscene.

Sent by e s woods | 2:52 PM | 6-23-2008

@e s woods: " How could anyone not feel that his photo is far more obscene."

How could anyone not feel rather that the picture of a child being inducted into a culture of hatred in a group with a notorious murderous history is not "far more obscene"? Here we are again, apparently unable to understand another's viewpoint, but having to tolerate it.

Sent by R.R. Bent | 3:24 PM | 6-23-2008

Remarkable photographs -- shocking, breathtaking, repellent.

Sent by Douglas Smith | 3:53 PM | 6-23-2008

Images of ourselves such as these, along with those of other cultures that show behavior or lifestyles that are contrary to our own morality, are necessary and important for reminding us what we are capable of and why we need to change.

Sent by Anthony Mann | 4:04 PM | 6-23-2008

Anthony Karen has done an amazing job of capturing beautiful images of human beings. I believe that the KKK represents humanity at one of its lowest and ugliest expressions and I do not relate to the voodoo rituals in Haiti. Where I connect with these images is in the simple fact that these are all people. I see that these beliefs are multi-generational passed down from parent to child. It does indeed make me sad though to know that these children are being brai-washed into a culture of ignorance and intolerance. I applaud Anthony Karen for taking the time to suspend his judgments in order to make these images. I am at once intrigued and repelled.

Sent by Bija | 4:52 PM | 6-23-2008

all the posts i read displayed the same sort of intolerance that angered the posters i think.are we free to have contrary beliefs or not ?

Sent by ray williams | 5:49 PM | 6-23-2008

You just gotta document the history. Right on! This, ladies and gentlemen, is a slice of the world in which we live. It's like documenting 9/11 or The Murrah bombing-it's important for me that my children know what's up, and what's happened before so they don't go thru the same crap in 30-40 years or so. A kid in a klan hat is an amazing picture to even be able to take. Kudos to Karen

Sent by Tyrone | 6:38 PM | 6-23-2008

An adventure into the dark side, wonderfully executed with remarkable courage! I don't remember anyone ever telling me life would be "pretty", it is now confirmed. I find this fascinating and equally fascinating that someone is capable of breaking through to the other side, and returns to tell us all about it. This kind a strikes my like the days when journalist weren't embedded, circa Vietnam...when Unicorns didn't exist.

And who amongst us doesn't slow down at the scene of an accident? Be honest now...

Sent by george gekas | 7:07 PM | 6-23-2008

I dont have a lot of insight about tolerance or acceptance of these beliefs all I know is that feeling the impact of the photos made my stomach turn. People really live with this much hatred in their hearts? One can only do this if operating under a lie, and that lie is demonic.

Sent by E. Fowler | 8:08 PM | 6-23-2008

I would like to believe that it is our duty as a human to be both intrigued and concerned with the documentary. Superb! It is of the utmost importance to remember that this sort of hatred still exists, no matter how tolerant and blind we try to be. It is real and it is some where in the world that we live. Combating it starts with us, with those who understand that love of self and pride of race doesn't have to equal hate for others. In contrast he also showed a devotion or love in voodoo, though I may not understand it, just as I do not understand the rituals in "Judaism" or orthodox "Judaism". Artistically it is a documentary of beautiful opposition. I'll just pray for the children, in the meantime.

Sent by Mychaela | 12:39 AM | 6-24-2008

Fantastic work. BRAVO! Real journalism.

Sent by R Adams, Houston TX | 3:09 AM | 6-24-2008

I, too, am an educator who is determined to embrace, practice, and teach the concept of "Never Again," the statement used always to describe the blindness used during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, despite my greatest efforts, students will continue to think as they choose, despite the most horrifying photographs or graphic movies. After showing images of the Holocaust, describing human tragedies in Rwanda and Bosnia, I still have students who are openly racist. Sadly,teaching does not create empathy. Experience does.

Sent by Heather Curran | 9:09 AM | 6-24-2008

Karen's statements in his ability to stop the Neonazi's who were giving the hotel rep a hard time is evidence that relationships is what changes people and their bahaviors. His images reflect the undercurrent of our cultures, and in the process his presence among them is a small dam to their progress.

Sent by Jeff | 10:32 AM | 6-24-2008

@ R Adams: "Fantastic work. BRAVO! Real journalism."

I have the absolute opposite opinion. It's just shock value photography and nothing else. Even the photographer himself stated this when he said, "I wanted more shock photos in my portfolio."

He's taking these photo's to make a living. He has no control of who uses these photo's other than a "no tabloid clause." He also has no control over what they write under his photo's. Doesn't seem like journalism to me at all. So:

Fantastic work. BRAVO! Real exploitation.

Ever seen the movie "Pecker" by Jonathan Waters? He treats this with a comical flair (I love Waters' movies) but seriously at the same time. I highly recommend.

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 11:23 AM | 6-24-2008

In the interview, there was some amazement at how Karen was able to gain access to these groups. Mike also described Karen's physical appearance. I think his physical appearance certainly influenced how easily he was accepted into the KKK gatherings and his difficulty in gaining access to the Black Panthers. Even the fact that he was a tourist influenced his initial observances of the Voodoo culture (and their staged ceremony). Clearly, being polite and a nice guy helps him gain access to some groups, but, at least for the American groups, it seems that his race was also a factor.

I think it is important to document these things and Karen certainly does a good job of doing so. What I found most disturbing about the whole thing was the Klansman who vouched for him. He worked at a school with kids of all races and then participated in racist activities in his free time. It made me more curious about how he treated his students. Is it possible to treat non-white students fairly when you think they are inherently inferior to white students? I personally don't think so, but this segment made me want to know more about people who live with those types of dichotomies.

Sent by April | 11:48 AM | 6-24-2008

@ R Adams: "Fantastic work. BRAVO! Real journalism."

I have the absolute opposite opinion. It's just shock value photography and nothing else. Even the photographer himself stated this when he said, "I wanted more shock photos in my portfolio."

He's taking these photo's to make a living. He has no control of who uses these photo's other than a "no tabloid clause." He also has no control over what they write under his photo's. Doesn't seem like journalism to me at all. So:

Fantastic work. BRAVO! Real exploitation.

Ever seen the movie "Pecker" by Jonathan Waters? He treats this with a comical flair (I love Waters' movies) but seriously at the same time. I highly recommend.

-I suppose someone like yourself would put National Geographic in the same category, no? Exploitation for letting viewers see the rare occurrences in the world? I've read your comments before, particularly the one you left about the segregated prom. This comment surprises me. So what is real journalism Nathan? Some of the events Mr. Karen photographed are related to that segregated prom culture my friend. If Mr. Karen were taking photographs of dead Iraqi soldiers, would he have control over where they land, the words underneath them, or who would use them for propaganda? I respectfully disagree with comparing Mr. Karen's photographs to "Pecker"; he isn't taking photographs of Paris Hilton now is he?

Sent by R Adams, Houston TX | 12:01 PM | 6-24-2008

Anthony Karen was an interesting character with a most open, unbias view in terms of his career. Still, I can't help but be disturbed by the KKK. I'd be interested in seeing what "story" this portfolio told. Empathy? Ignorance? Both simultaneously? Honestly, this makes me want a career in Photo Journalism, because this photographer made me remember what it was like to see through the eyes of realities instead of views. Bravo!

Sent by Christina Dabasinskas | 12:58 PM | 6-24-2008

I was intrigued by the interviewer's amazement that the klansmen and neo-nazis didn't try hard to convert Karen into their way of thinking. It's interesting to me the swift judgements that can be and are placed on people who have radical and controversial views. Personally, I will never even understand pure racism and supremecy. However, my experience, like Karen's, shows that a neo-nazi is just as capable of having a decent conversation as you or I. It is a dillema, though-do you succomb to the same type of prejudice that the racists practice and pass judgement on them sight unseen for their beliefs, or do you accept the fact that they are people, too?
I admire Karen's ability to see his subjects as people, yet keep himself distanced from their beliefs.

Sent by Tracy E | 3:51 PM | 6-24-2008

@ R Adams: YAY! Someone actually read something I wrote. \o/

I'll respond as best I can. Also my tone shouldn't be construed as defensive or whatever (I hope). I understand that this is only a blog and not a life and death issue :)

I'm not sure how much of this response will be only self-justification of my gut reaction than a real moral/ethical view. But I'll do my best.

Segregated prom: My comments were on the prom itself and not the photo's. I think the photo's were great and had true journalistic value!

National Geographic photo's: I love nature photography (one of my hobbies). It's hard to exploit an alpine marmot. I also think the cultural photo's of tribes in africa, or indonesia or a marriage in thailand or whatever are beautiful. The intention behind these photos in National Geogrpahic is to lift what some may seem as base to high art.

The voodoo photo's of Anthony Karen: I like these too. I think they are fascinating and certainly it seemed his intention was to show the rituals neutrally.

KKK photos: His intention was to make shock photo's. A pregnant woman smoking a cigarette with a KKK t-shirt on is shocking when placed in a liberal magazine (Mother Jones?). I don't think she would have agreed with this. I deem this (correctly???) exploitation. I'm not saying the KKK is good or that you should smoke while pregnant. I just don't see this as being different than taking a photo of Britney Spears shaving her head or exiting a car with no panties on.

Pecker: The point of the move, in my opinion, was how a boy took innocent photos of people in his neighborhood (lower middle class Baltimore). He then becomes a big hit in New York because the people there (the intelligentia... to which I proudly belong to in Holland, lol) loved his "poverty art." The people he had taken the photos of (who were ok originally with being photographed) got mad because they felt these Upper Class New Yorkers were laughing at them and their lifestyle, which let's face it they were. The photographees felt exploited.

This was the point I was trying to make. The KKK photos seemed all shock value and no journalism. Yes of course it is real but does it say anything? A woman making a KKK hat for a child? I personally fail to see the journalistic value? That's my humble opnion.

Flame away!


Sent by Nathan in Holland | 6:17 AM | 6-25-2008

Fitting your kid for a kkk hood... that is sick. If your going to screw up your own life, well that's one thing. The kid isn't even old enough to make decisions and these sick parents go and brain wash them. How do you people sleep at night? You are sick and twisted.

Sent by Jessi Shoup | 1:38 PM | 6-30-2008

Karen's photographs are just what he says they are: archival reflections on underground cultures. No one should be surprised that these sub-cultures exist, and the photographs shouldn't make you angry. There are a lot of s1/4ulture groups out there that thrive on ignorance and fear. If you are curious about how they operate, just be thankful that people like Karen are able to infiltrate them long enough for a shutter shot or two. If you want to influence these groups towards a more socially cooperative realm, use patience and education as means of bringing them along.

Sent by Dukein OK | 1:54 PM | 6-30-2008


I have had the pleasure of working with Anthony and have to say that you are way off base here. He spends tons of his own money to finance this project which most media outlets are too scared too touch. And he has dedicated years of his career too it.

To say that this is just done for money as shock value and compare it to paparazzi photography is an insult to the work that he has invested in.

It is your right to disagree with it and dislike it, but show respect for the work that has been put in to the story.

Sent by Ben Rasmusse | 8:28 PM | 7-4-2008

Anthony is a great photographer.He is honest and true with his art.He is good at what may be politicaly incorect pics,but is part or are world.He is welcome at are rallys because he lets the world see us as we are.You don't have to like us but we are hear.Imperial Klaliff DIXIE RANGERS KKK

Sent by Bobby Moreno | 9:41 PM | 7-7-2008