Thursday, 18 December 2014

Narrative images: "The State Patrol made me be there. His momma and daddy made him be there."

"I will never be able to live without someone finding this picture. Over twenty years later and it just keeps coming up. I am amazed how much this photo has popped up again and again. Gainesville Times, Gainesville GA. Sad but true. It is me. I took it. Josh 3 years old at that time. Klan rally on the square in Gainesville GA. This lady to the right is his mom and they were from the winder knights , Winder GA. So there is the background of this photo. They also had a smaller child that was in a stroller in kkk garb. All the other journalists there were focused on the speeches on the courthouse steps, but I kept an eye on Josh. No need for words to explain this sad situation. I think he thought it was halloween and was looking at his reflection in the shield."
Todd Robertson, 2012

“I didn’t even see the kid. I was just looking down to see what was bumping on my shield. And when I looked down, there was this little kid in a Klan uniform. He saw his reflection in the riot shield. He was tracing his outline. The child was oblivious to what was going on around him." Allen Campbell 
On 5 September 1992, a Saturday on Labour Day weekend, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Gainesville (Georgia). There were 66 Klan representatives, about three times as many law enforcement personnel and about 100 observers, most of them demonstrating against the Klan. Todd Robertson was assigned as a backup photographer for "The Gainsville Times", the local daily. He did not focus on speakers but rather on a mother and her two Klan-robed boys. One of them, a toddler called Josh, approached the black state trooper Allen Campbell who was holding a riot shield on the ground. The toddler saw his reflection in the shield and reached for it. That moment the mother took away the toddler. Robertson captured this very moment two persons met who both had not chosen to be where they were. Allen Campbell: "The State Patrol made me be there. His momma and daddy made him be there." (via). Campbell was "ticked off" about being at the rally: "It was the last holiday of the summer. But here I am at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Gainesville, Ga., protecting the rights of the Ku Klux Klan." (via)

At the beginning, the photograph was not paid much attention to. The newspaper office told Robertson, his photographs were not worth developing. He took his film to a local one-hour photo developer, brought them back to the newspaper office and was told by the managing editor: "This picture's running the paper." It appeared in a small community newspaper, was then discovered by other newspapers and won the Associated Press award in the Feature Photo category. Seven years later, in 1999, it was featured by the Southern Poverty Law Center that was often contacted by people who wanted to order a poster version of the photograph. In 2011, it appeared again on a popular blog. Ball State University built a one-hour lesson plan (Kiddie Klan Exercise) around the photograph as part of the teacher toolkit "Learning from a Legacy of Hate". (via)
"It’s a fleeting moment, but one that you could spend hours reflecting on, finding different nuances and interpretations. It becomes a sort of Rorschach test for each commenter’s worldview. It might leave you hopeful that hate isn’t a trait we’re born with. Or it might make you depressed about the fact that many children are destined to be corrupted and psychologically misshapen." David Griner
In January 2013, Todd Robertson met with Allen Campbell and said he wished he would know what happened to the toddler: "It would be nice to know he's moved beyond that." (via)

photograph by Todd Robertson via