American photographer Anthony Karen spent over two years trying to get access to the Ku Klux Klan before being able to actually document them. His photos, published in "The Invisible Empire: Ku Klux Klan" (powerHouse Books 2009), show that the white supremacist group created over 140 years ago is still alive and well today. And even more so since the election of America's first black president, Karen tells us. Read more and see the photos...   

Anthony comments on his photos

Anthony Karen is a New York photojournalist and former US Marine.

The majority of Klan members are indistinguishable from the rest of society. I've come across Klan members all over the USA, including some from Spain, Italy and Germany. There are those who are doctors and lawyers along with those that are the hillbilly or lost soul type... I also knew a major Klan leader that owned and ran a day school for children of all races.

Some don't have any personal issues with other races, they just prefer to marry within their own race. And then you have those who despise certain groups and are very vocal about it. One lady I've documented has a black nurse and Hispanic healthcare worker that help care for her disabled daughter. She sews robes for many Klan members. Honestly, most of the racial talk I've heard is geared towards the illegal immigrants, and the Jews... (I'm sometimes referred to as Anthony from Jew York). And most of the time that [kind of talk] occurs at a gathering or demonstration. 

They don't all think exactly alike; you'll have some that go about the day just like the rest of us and others that may seek out a table in a restaurant with a white waitress over a black one. To take it a step further, I've spent a good amount of time in the Deep South and, contrary to popular belief, many are surprisingly polite to people of colour in an everyday situation.

I have heard of people quitting the Klan altogether, going independent or deciding not to hold affiliations with any organization at all. I haven't noticed any malice towards children that have adopted a belief outside of the Klan ideology. I think the only situation that might stir up reactions is if a child brought home a person of another race for a dating relationship. I can't generalize because I know of one group with two open lesbian members and, yes, that is an oddity within these groups.

[In relation to US President Barack Obama's election], I'm guessing they were upset. Some supported Obama for reasons I do not know and others supported him because they wanted the world to see him mess up as a black man, maybe to prove themselves right, I don't know. Then you have the ones that voted for anybody other than Obama because Obama was black. 

The Klan will be around for a long time in my opinion. I think the numbers will increase or decrease in conjunction with the state of society. For example, if crime continues to rise and the prison system is overflowing with a majority of black inmates or illegal immigrants, I believe you'll have more people that will get fed up and look to find an organization or maybe just some like-minded people that they can feel free to speak their minds to, without looking over their shoulder. Their numbers have increased not only because of Obama's colour, but also because of the state of the country and how America has seemingly politically corrected itself out of what it once was. The relevance of the KKK has increased and strengthened in my opinion [because of the election of Obama]".

The costumes were originally intended to portray KKK members as the ghosts of Confederate soldiers fallen in the Civil War. They were subsequently adopted to keep "night riders" anonymous.