My favorite thing about working as a photographer, by far, is the immense range of human experience that I get to witness. Not just witness, but really take part in and experience. Some days are spent hanging out with primitivists living in the woods and the next day may be spent with CEOs or lawyers. When Al Jazeera America contacted me to go shoot a confederate flag rally in Knoxville, when the previous day, I had been in South Carolina talking to African American folks about their thoughts about the confederate flag coming down at the state house, I had mixed feelings, but was excited for the challenge. I grew up in a small town in the south, so I’m no stranger to this mentality. For the most part, I knew what I was getting into. I knew things were going to be said that would make me feel very uncomfortable, but I also knew that people were going to be very friendly and easy to be around.
My main focus was photographing Mathiew Heimbach who has become known as “The Little Fuhrer”. Heimbach is one of the leading voices associated with the white nationalist movement. His belief is that all races and religions should live separately. He proposes that all homosexuals should live in San Francisco, all Jewish people should live in New York, certain cities will be designated for black or white, completely self governed. The evening ended in a Walmart parking lot. After the event, the writer, Vegas Tenold and I joined Heimbach and a couple of his party members for dinner at Ruby Tuesday. It was a perfect example of what I love about photography. How else would you ever find yourself in this situation.
Since I was hired as a journalist, I’m abstaining from interjecting too much of my own opinions in here and tried to create a balance with the photography between reflecting the harsh reality of what was being said, and showing the human element. I was glad for this opportunity. Although I’ve heard some argue that groups like this should not be given attention or a voice in the media, I feel that it’s important to know where we are in society and get glimpses of all facets of our culture, and know that these people are out there and they are running for public offices.
Please check out the awesome article by Vegas, he did an awesome job: