Summary:This project concerns the growth of the White Power movement within the United States. Beginning in my time spent at ICP in 2012, this project has taken me across the US to Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Ohio, and Arizona. The work submitted here concentrates on two different, but allying, groups- the Ku Klux Klan which is a homegrown group and the National Socialist Movement, the country’s largest Neo Nazi group.
"There was a time where I wanted to go out and kill every nigger on the planet. But you can't just go out be killing niggers" was how my 4th of July 2015 began. It was a private rally of a Ku Klux Klan sect and they were inducting new members, as well as organizing a traditional cross lighting ceremony. Since 2012 I have been travelling the US learning how organizations that describe themselves as "white civil rights" groups, operate. I've managed to distinguish between how the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a large US based National Socialism (Nazi) organization differs from the KKK, how they're similar, and how they operate on the same wavelengths in an attempt to achieve a similar outcome.
In a post 9/11 world these organizations that promote racial singularity, white supremacism, and a separation of races have seen a significant rise in membership and ideological adherents. Even more recently, in the passed several years we as a society have seen an increase in racial tensions and acts of domestic terror that retain the “modus operandi” of the Civil Rights Era church bombings or similar violent acts the are founded on the same beliefs. It would seem that the phrase “those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it” has begun to come full circle.
This project started in 2012, during my year long studies at the International Center of Photography in NYC. The project has taken many mediums- I have since began photographing certain events with a digital infrared camera, as well as video and audio to fill the void where stills cannot reach.
The project began as an effort to examine the shift in the political spectrum to the far right, which is more self evident as each day passes. With Arizona spearheading immigration enforcement with legislation SB1070 and Kentucky following close being with legislation SB 6 in 2012, the country was gripped with fear of illegal immigration, terrorism, and the conjoining of both. First photographing the NSM, I began to expand the focus of the project onto other similar groups, which had since seen a significant rise in membership and numbers after 2001 and after President Obama's election in 2008. I have now photographed many of the NSM gatherings, several KKK groups, a wedding of two Neo Nazis, and Neo Nazi-run border patrol unit. Recently, the project has taken me abroad, to South Africa, to analyze the white Afrikaner-only communities that are beginning to develop in order to "preserve culture from extinction." Given the relativiely unprecendented access I have to this movement, I will continue to explore the inner workings of such groups beyond the focus on symbols that most photo essay have concentrated on in the past. Since it’s inception I have travelled to 10 states and 1 other country to work on this project, with more on the horizon.
The current social and political climate has since made the necessity for this project a top priority for me, as I believe it should for many. The simple notion that David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, shares a political embrace with so many United States citizens for a presidential candidate should raise a multitude of questions at the least. This project will aim to provide a layer in the discussion of race and race relations within the US. I hope to go beyond traditionally seen narratives of such organizations, movements, and groups, to provide a deeper analysis that transcends what we know.
Since the majority of this body of work has been self funded there has been continuous financial stress concerning the future of the project and thus have barred me from attending various rallies and events. A grant from the FotoVisura would allow me to indefinitely continue working on this project to advance the discussion on race in America. Specifically, this grant will cover various travel and loding expenses incurred moving across the country to various private and public ceremonies, as well as the inevitible publication of this body of work in the form of various interactive multimedia web pages, print and book form, as well as help fund an online vehicle to incorporate the different facets of the White Power movement that I have begun exploring- the rallies, the private ceremonies, a Neo Nazi border patrol unit, a Neo Nazi wedding, a KKK wedding to name a few.
The results of this project will utilize modern story telling techniques and interactive story telling to not only engage the audience, but educate them as well. The conversation on race relations in the US cannot simply only be taught via textbooks; it must reach out beyond words to tell the story of the past, present, and future.
This grant will allow me to continue to help foster and contribute to the conversation concerning race in the United States, a conversation that is absolutely necessary in order for our society to expand, develop, and evolve. With Visura’s help, this project will be able to reach its full potential and provide a foundation for understanding racism and race relations - something that without this grant, cannot be guaraunteed.