On the Site: Photographing the Klan

BPP Producer Angela Ellis discusses the photography of Anthony Karen, including his photos of the KKK.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

And as that lovely interviewer just mentioned, we're not just a radio show, we're a blog. And we have been blogging a lot about what Anthony Karen has been doing. BPP producer Angela Ellis riding heard over the Anthony Karen coverage. Hey, Angela.

ANGELA ELLIS: Hello.

PESCA: What's going on there?

ELLIS: So, as you mentioned at the end of that interview we have up on the blog a very cool video/slideshow kind of all mashed up together courtesy of the wonderful Wyn Rosenfeld. Of some of the photos and images taken by Anthony Karen. It's of both his voodoo, the work that he's done in Haiti, and also of his kind of behind the scenes of the KKK.

MIKE PESCA: He just photographed the voodoo. He hasn't done voodoo, that we know of.

ANGELA ELLIS: Well, that we know of, that we know of. No, he has not. He has not. He has done...

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

His observations.

ELLIS: Exactly. And that's the whole key. There's also a blog post I put up there kind of like the whole idea of you're just there to observe and to document. It's something that, you know, for him it's really cool, he can get into all these, you know, we talked about in the interview. He can get into all of these closed sub-cultures. He took a little bit of heat from a - there was a slide show or a photo essay on Mother Jones, about one woman in particular who works with a klan. She makes the robes and hoods and things like that, sewing them, and he did a little bit of an interview for that. The way it was cut up he kind of came across like, you know, that - as he was kind of just recounting what they told him, things mean about KKK ceremonies and all that stuff.

PESCA: Right.

ELLIS: That, you know, some people commented on that blog that, you know, maybe he was, you know, kind of sympathizing or...

PESCA: Well, he felt - he felt that his cut - the cut that they provided on his comments was unfair. But I watched the whole thing. I never, for a second, thought that Anthony Karen was a sympathizer. But the other aspect of it that he objected to, you know, because he really wants to be, and we talked about this, too, he really wants to be a step back and not - from the things that he's photographing. So he doesn't want to have loaded language associated with it. And Mother Jones, the headline on that, was something like Arian outfitters and hate couture.

ELLIS: Exactly.

PESCA: And that's not something he would every say.

ELLIS: Right.

PESCA: So like that it always happens in journalism that someone else writes your headline. And usually it's good and sometimes the journalists will roll their eyes and say, oh, I didn't write the headline. For him, who has, you know, a very specific opinion about journalists and why he's doing what he's doing a little different from journalism. He felt really sold out I think...

ELLIS: Right.

PESCA: By those headlines.

ELLIS: And it could compromise him, too, because, you know, these people that he's covering also, you know, they can see these things, they have seen...

PESCA: Right.

ELLIS: You know, how things are put out there. And, you know, it's all about trust for him to be able to get in.

PESCA: Right.

ELLIS: So they feel, you know, that they're being manipulated and be...

PESCA: Yeah. And you can't expect the klansmen to know, well, of course, the editors write the headlines. They just see this thing called hate couture and they might object and they might think that it was Anthony Karen who betrayed them. So...

ELLIS: Yeah. So I put up on the blog just a little note about my own experience that I had with a kind of similar situation of, back in a previous life when I worked in network television. I had to go down to death row in Texas, not because I did something and was sent to death row. And, to meet with this guy who - named Patrick Piettrich(ph) who was apparently one of the founders or an early member of the Aryan Brotherhood, that prison gang. And so, you know, he was obviously behind the glass, the, you know, the protective glass and stuff. And I walked in, and he stands up, and he's big scary looking dude with all of these, you know, tattoos things, you know, most unflattering things. And - but he was actually very nice. Hello, ma'am. How are you? Had a nice chat. So, you know, judgment had to be out the window. So I write a little bit about that on the blog.

PESCA: And yet - and yet the thick glass, you still appreciated it.

ELLIS: I did, yeah. Yes. I was glad I was there.

PESCA: That is BPP producer Angela Ellis. Thank you very much, Angela, for all you do.

MARTIN: Go to the blog. Check out all that good stuff, npr.org/bryantpark. And coming up, we'll learn about a snail mail experience involving actual snails.

PESCA: That is next on the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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