PetaPixel

Photographing the National Convention of the National Socialist Movement

NVFWDaz

The National Socialist Movement held their 2013 national convention in Atlanta, Georgia, protesting undocumented immigration and contemporary political policies. The NSM boasts of being the nation’s largest “white civil rights groups” and aligns itself with other like-minded individuals across the nation. Spanning across the majority of the 50 states, the NSM retains its presence through regional and local leaders.

Here’s a look at the convention and how I documented it through photographs earlier this year.

April 19 2013- Atlanta Georgia- Members of the National Socialist Movement prepare their attire for the banquet on the night before their march to the Capitol.  The 2013 NSM National Convention was geared mostly towards undocumented immigration and was during a memorable '50 Days of Nonviolence' in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.

Members of the National Socialist Movement prepare their attire for the banquet on the night before their march to the Capitol. The 2013 NSM National Convention was geared mostly towards undocumented immigration and was during a memorable ’50 Days of Nonviolence’ in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.

Kim Laurence, part of the Texas branch of the National Socialist Movement, stands in the hallway just outside of the banquet area, the night prior to their march on the Capitol.  Each year around the same time period the NSM gather for their national convention, while throughout the rest of the year local and regional leaders direct smaller campaigns and rallies in their hometown areas.

Kim Laurence, part of the Texas branch of the National Socialist Movement, stands in the hallway just outside of the banquet area, the night prior to their march on the Capitol. Each year around the same time period the NSM gather for their national convention, while throughout the rest of the year local and regional leaders direct smaller campaigns and rallies in their hometown areas.

It’s hard to really say how this project began, as if there was some intangible moment along the way that marked the beginning. I started toying with the idea of developing a type of project on this subject on and off in the later part of 2011.

Chris Drake gets a tattoo inside one of the hotel rooms while being told that he's late for his shift in parking lot security.  Chris Drake, formerly of the NSM now of the Old Glory Skinheads, participates in NSM events as a supporter.  After having an incident of a members car being smashed in, the NSM organized a structured watch shift to patrol the hotel parking lot.

Chris Drake gets a tattoo inside one of the hotel rooms while being told that he’s late for his shift in parking lot security. Chris Drake, formerly of the NSM now of the Old Glory Skinheads, participates in NSM events as a supporter. After having an incident of a members car being smashed in, the NSM organized a structured watch shift to patrol the hotel parking lot.

An NSM member stands on the steps of the Capitol, facing a group of anti demonstrators.  The number '14' signifies Hitler's 14 words- \"We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.\" The number '88' stands for HH- Heil Hitler- where the letter H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

An NSM member stands on the steps of the Capitol, facing a group of anti demonstrators. The number ’14′ signifies Hitler’s 14 words- “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The number ’88′ stands for HH- Heil Hitler- where the letter H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

Mr. Wright inspects his car alongside an East Point police officer after individuals believed to be \"anti fascists\" smashed in his windows. Prior to the rally, members of the NSM gathered in an undisclosed location to prepare for the banquet and the next day's events.

Mr. Wright inspects his car alongside an East Point police officer after individuals believed to be “anti fascists” smashed in his windows. Prior to the rally, members of the NSM gathered in an undisclosed location to prepare for the banquet and the next day’s events.

I had just started the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography program at the International Center of Photography in NYC and I knew that for the last 5 months of the program I would be focusing on developing a long term project.

An NSM member displays his tattoos.  Below the tattoo of remembrance of the bombing of Dresden, is written "Betrayal"

An NSM member displays his tattoos. Below the tattoo of remembrance of the bombing of Dresden, is written “Betrayal”

The National Socialist Movement's annual "Nationals" was held in Atlanta this year, and yielded significant turnout between anti protestors.  Strict attire and uniforms are required for much of the weekend's events, including pressed uniforms and proper display of patches/insignia

The National Socialist Movement’s annual “Nationals” was held in Atlanta this year, and yielded significant turnout between anti protestors. Strict attire and uniforms are required for much of the weekend’s events, including pressed uniforms and proper display of patches/insignia

Around the same time that the program was getting into gear, Arizona was preparing to present its Senate Bill 1070, which drove the issue of immigration to the front of the national debate.

Dan Lawrence and his wife Kim prepare for the nights banquet, and to go over protocol for the next day's rally.

Dan Lawrence and his wife Kim prepare for the nights banquet, and to go over protocol for the next day’s rally.

Kim Lawrence irons NSM related patches onto her uniform. Prior the the rally, the NSM gathers its members to go over protocol, rules, and instructions for the march the next day.  In order for them to keep their permit, they must abide by rules and guidelines set forth by the local police.

Kim Lawrence irons NSM related patches onto her uniform. Prior the the rally, the NSM gathers its members to go over protocol, rules, and instructions for the march the next day. In order for them to keep their permit, they must abide by rules and guidelines set forth by the local police.

SB1070 was the talking point for much of the country based on some of its controversial stipulations allowing local police forces to act as immigration enforcement — allowing them to use their discretion in requiring individuals who they deemed as possibly undocumented to show citizenship papers. It immediately peaked my interest, and I kept up with the bill as it moved its way through the state legislature.

Members of the NSM and KKK walk together on their way through the streets of Atlanta towards the Capitol.  State and local police units were dispatched to provide as a the mediator during the rally, as to ensure that no violence would ensue between anti demonstrators and NSM/KKK members.

Members of the NSM and KKK walk together on their way through the streets of Atlanta towards the Capitol. State and local police units were dispatched to provide as a the mediator during the rally, as to ensure that no violence would ensue between anti demonstrators and NSM/KKK members.

Mr. Wright inspects his car alongside an East Point police officer after individuals believed to be "anti fascists" smashed in his windows.

Mr. Wright inspects his car alongside an East Point police officer after individuals believed to be “anti fascists” smashed in his windows.

At this point in time I had always been interested in the sort of “political right” and had envisioned it being some sort of transcendental body of work like Christopher Morris’ “Americans”.

After the NSM and members of the KKK meet in a parking garage prior to the rally, a shocked bystander approaches and explains that "this is something I've never seen before".  The National Socialist Movement boasts of being the nation's "largest white civil rights groups".

After the NSM and members of the KKK meet in a parking garage prior to the rally, a shocked bystander approaches and explains that “this is something I’ve never seen before”. The National Socialist Movement boasts of being the nation’s “largest white civil rights groups”.

NSM members head down to the hotel lobby where the banquet is being held.

NSM members head down to the hotel lobby where the banquet is being held.

Chris Drake puts in time at the hotel's exercise room the night before the march on the Capitol.

Chris Drake puts in time at the hotel’s exercise room the night before the march on the Capitol.

After doing my research and fully immersing myself in the idea of the project, I began to reach out to several groups. After contacting group after group after group, and several months of emails and phone calls, I was granted an interview with one of the, at the time, regional directors of the National Socialist Movement. All in all it took about 4 months or so before I actually began shooting.

Members of the NSM and KKK walk together on their way through the streets of Atlanta towards the Capitol.

Members of the NSM and KKK walk together on their way through the streets of Atlanta towards the Capitol.

Each year at their annual "Nationals" the NSM seeks to unify with other local "white civil rights" organizations like the KKK.

Each year at their annual “Nationals” the NSM seeks to unify with other local “white civil rights” organizations like the KKK.

Each year at their annual "Nationals" the NSM seeks to unify with other local "white civil rights" organizations like the KKK.

Each year at their annual “Nationals” the NSM seeks to unify with other local “white civil rights” organizations like the KKK.

After conducting the interview, it was very difficult for me to get the access I needed to make the pictures I wanted. The interview was the only material I had until 2 months later when I was invited to the NSM’s national convention that was held annually in a different state each year.

Members of the KKK prepare their robes and attire prior to the rally.

Members of the KKK prepare their robes and attire prior to the rally.

Anti demonstrators protested against the message of the NSM and the KKK, yielding signs and megaphones to get their message across.

Anti demonstrators protested against the message of the NSM and the KKK, yielding signs and megaphones to get their message across.

2012′s national convention was held in Kentucky, and so I flew out with the same regional director that I conducted the interview with, among other members, and spent 3 days there in Louisville, photographing the banquet, rally, and the “in betweens” at the hotel. What I walked away with was a short multimedia piece.

NSM members jokingly try and taze each other after the days rally and after celebration at the hotel.

NSM members jokingly try and taze each other after the days rally and after celebration at the hotel.

Anti demonstrators wait outside of the parking garage where the NSM and KKK are located to protest the presence of the NSM and the KKK, yielding signs and megaphones to get their message across.

Anti demonstrators wait outside of the parking garage where the NSM and KKK are located to protest the presence of the NSM and the KKK, yielding signs and megaphones to get their message across.

Although I was content with what I walked away with, I knew it would take a much greater period of time to put to rest many of the wary looks I was getting in Kentucky. After keeping in contact with many of the members and subsequently completing another portfolio of some of the border patrol operations that the NSM participates in independently, I was again invited this time around for the 2013 convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Members of the NSM go for a swim in the hotel pool after the rally on the Captiol.

Members of the NSM go for a swim in the hotel pool after the rally on the Captiol.

Immediately upon my arrival, the air was not as thick as Kentucky. I had some rapport built up with many of the members, including their ‘commander’, I had met at the last convention and during my time with their border guard unit in Arizona. Looking back on my previous bodies of work it’s obvious that the time that it took guided me to the place I needed to be to really only scratch the surface at the pictures I wanted to make, and the Atlanta convention is a subtle reminder of that to me.

A police officer overwatches the departure of the NSM and KKK members as they leave the parking garage.  Participants in the NSM rally included an individual from Austria.

A police officer overwatches the departure of the NSM and KKK members as they leave the parking garage. Participants in the NSM rally included an individual from Austria.

Members of the Knights of the Ku Klux Clan prepare their robes and attire just before marching towards the Capitol.

Members of the Knights of the Ku Klux Clan prepare their robes and attire just before marching towards the Capitol.

The images that I walked away with aren’t home runs, but they’re definitely a step up above the generic rally and swastika pictures that are rampant among projects like this. Although I know my project is not where I want it to be in the least, I know that I’m making progress.


About the author: John Milano is a photographer based in New York who’s currently freelancing for Newsday. He is passionate about social documentary work as well as conflict photography. Visit his website here.


 
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  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.karl.larsson Adrian Larsson

    you dont know anything about the world except what the liberal media tells you, do you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.karl.larsson Adrian Larsson

    Hitler took over big industries and banks.
    Nazies share a lot of their economic ideas with Marx.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.karl.larsson Adrian Larsson

    “Freedom of speech does not protect speech you like, but speech you hate”

  • Eliot Heath-Griffiths

    Socialism and fascism arnet mutually exclusive. Most fascist parties have promoted some socialist ideals like planned economy and a powerful government. Mussolini for instance was a socialist before opportunistically switching to fascism The same is true of Oswald Mosley in the UK. What we consider to be political norms nowadays are not always the same as in the 1920s and 30s

  • kerFuFFler

    True, Hitler came to an agreement with the Soviets that was convenient for him at the beginning. But he was NEVER ideologically in a similar camp with them. The Soviets fought against Hitler for the bulk of the war, and focusing on a brief convenient and duplicitous alliance while ignoring the bulk of the actual fighting is ‘misleading x 10′. The Fascists were at the complete and opposite polar end of the political spectrum from the Communists. This much was clear in the civil war in Spain. The Soviets did not like Hitler, but they liked making money selling munitions and materials to Germany since they figured it was all going to be used by Capitalist regimes fighting against one another. They wanted the westerners to weaken themselves in their competitive squabbles so they could sweep in later and take new territory. Sadly their strategy worked.

    But basically, people—–and that includes you—-need to stop conflating communism (or socialism) with fascism. The two are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and any alliances were merely temporary and for convenience.

  • kerFuFFler

    That does not mean that Hitler espoused “socialist” ideals. He took the party in the opposite direction as soon as he had enough power to do so. Conflating fascism with communism is an error that people make when they only scratch the surface of history.

    Sweden is a very socialist country and has achieved a high standard of living for her people. The government of Sweden is pretty much the exact opposite of 1940′s Germany. The people enjoy great freedom, and corporations have less power to control society than in America or, in the extreme, any fascist state——WWII Germany and Italy or Spain under Franco.

    You could stand to read more history yourself.

  • Guest

    I suppose that this is the forum for neither political nor historical debates, but nowhere does the use of the word “socialism” need to imply extremist. Sweden and Norway is socialist and are hardly totalitarian. They are quite democratic and free. What you are referring to would more accurately be called “communism” or “Leninism”. National Socialism is Nazism and the word socialist was (mis)appropriated by the extreme right wing party before Hitler even joined it.

  • guest

    He/she knows history far better than most of the people involved in this forum, liberal or not. The liberal media didn’t write this history. It actually happened, and is easily verifiable by anyone with … er …. an internet connection?

  • Laurent Laborde

    C’est la liberté d’expression a l’americaine, on peut etre en desaccord avec eux et les laisser s’exprimer.

    « Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire. » et ca c’est de Voltaire, un francais.

  • Former Petapixel Fan

    I share tons of Petaxel posts. It was disgraceful that you showcased this one.

  • http://www.ameridane.org/ thingwarbler

    While everyone here is awfully busy one-upping one another on historical knowledge or lack of same, few have so far bothered to recognize the impressive efforts of the photographer. Just gaining the confidence of this bunch of happy campers was an accomplishment, and some of the shots here do a great job conveying the mindset and context of the NSM. Well done, it’s a worthwhile story to tell — and kudos for your tenacity and courage to stick with the story for the amount of time it took to get it “right” visually.

  • DamianM

    They can call themselves The Monkey Bear Hugging Squad but with the present Ideology’s of theirs they are still Nazis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/duke.shin1 Duke Shin

    It’s just a gathering of grumpy old racist Texans.

    Just like Walmart.

  • http://tsurufoto.com/ Aaron Tsuru

    Disagree.

    I want this idiots spouting their crap out in the open so we can yell at them, take their pictures, post them on the internet, and we can all point, stare, & laugh at the hateful bastards.

  • blahh

    at least one of them was drinking orange soda, cause ya know they dont make fun of anyone for liking orange soda….

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomashawk Thomas Hawk

    interesting and provocative work on the part of John Milano. People need to better understand that there is a distinction between documenting something and the political view of something. Just because you shoot something doesn’t mean your own personal politics align with it. In fact it can oftentimes be the opposite. Reminds me of some of the work that Gene Smith did with the Klan back in his own time.

    Well done.

  • sorry, no petapixel anymore!

    i am not shure, if this can be seen a neutral documentation of that right wing extremists come together. but i am shure, this shouldn’t be given that great platform. the lack of political education is bad enough. i am really disappointed about petapixel letting this happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/titanz91 Christopher Emery

    Plain and simple, these people are stupid.

  • http://www.tom-waugh.com/ Tom Waugh

    I quite liked the image of the guy diving into the pool when there are clearly two signs warning against it :o)

  • Brian

    Hitler was a socialist you pancake!

  • Alan Dove

    The Nazi movement in Germany called itself “National Socialism,” in order to sound less threatening than it actually was. Until very recently, the term “socialism” was regarded in most of the western world as a positive, relatively benign political movement.

  • Mantis

    Really? Because the way I see it, we’re all beholden to corporate interests right now and becoming more so everyday.

  • Mantis

    That’s communism. There is a difference.

  • Mantis

    Exactly. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • Thomas

    The 14 words are from David Lane, not Hitler.

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    NAZI IS SHORT FOR NATIONAL SOCIALIST PARTY….

    GET A BRAIN, MORANS!!! USA

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    ugh… Nazi = National Socialist Party

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    that’s what makes America better than Nazi Germany–we have freedom of speech.

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    so many face palms on the comments of this post.

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    this is by far one of the more interesting posts on Petapixel in a while. Much more interesting than photographs of “person surrounded by objects that are important to them”

    I was not aware that the KKK was still alive and functioning and now I know.

  • Ben

    The 14 words are not Hitler’s. They are David Lane’s.

  • eraserhead12

    surprise surprise, a congregation of white trash rednecks driven by the notion that they are entitled to inherit the world, simply because of their skin color.

    I’m confused though, wouldn’t aligning themselves with a so-called ‘socialist’ party, make them the ‘pinko commies’ they hate?

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.cyr.391 Matt Cyr

    You have a piss poor comprehension of history dude.

  • http://twitter.com/BruceFancher Bruce Fancher

    Say what you will about these guys, but to give credit where it’s due, they have the best crystal meth around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.reynolds.9678 Peter Reynolds

    I like to know what hotel chain hosted their convention – so I can avoid that chain for the rest of my life. Can you tell us John?

  • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

    Why? They don’t have a choice who they serve, if they serve the public. It’s not like the hotel chain paid for the event to happen.

    There’s one thing I won’t do, which is boycott someone for not being discriminatory, even if I detest the politics or religion of those people.

  • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

    Relevancy?

  • Tzctplus -

    Nonsense. Plenty of Latin American dictatorships have been capitalist for example.

  • Tzctplus -

    Chile under Augusto Pinochet.

    Singapore since independence.

    Modern China.

  • Tzctplus -

    A pact that was worth only the paper it was signed in.

    Hitler also signed a pact with Britain.

  • Tzctplus -

    To call China homogenous just comes to show that you don’t know what you are talking about.

  • Tzctplus -

    But they define their nation in terms of racial hatred.Not very egalitarian as any person with common sense can appreciate.

    And they are morally repugnant anyway, so any other political fig leaves pale in comparison with the crimes to which they voluntarily associate themselves.

  • Tzctplus -

    Well, fascists didn’t anything of the sort. Bayern, Volkswagen and many other companies profiteered very happily during that shameful time.

  • Tzctplus -

    USians allow such “freedoms” because they didn’t experience the concentration camps and mass murder on their own territory.

    In Germany those people would go to jail, and rightly so.

  • Tzctplus -

    Yes, in the same way as the German Democratic Republic was a democracy.

    Deeds, not words. Only a profoundly ignorant person can claim that Nazis were Socialists.

  • Tzctplus -

    Check the official name of North Korea. Politicians have and will go to any lengths to acquire power.

  • Tzctplus -

    Nazism should be a special case. The ideology demonstrably caused so much pain and carnage to millions of people that is should not be allowed its promotion in any form or shape.

  • Tzctplus -

    They do have a choice, there is right of admittance in most places against people that are set in causing disturbances. No business has an obligation to host a bunch of people that associate themselves with war criminals and mass murderers.

  • Cochese

    I know what Socialism is and I know what the party was called. The problem is that the Nazi’s weren’t socialists. Like most governments, they were a combination of many different types of political ideologies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lsocorro1 Luis Socorro

    Interesting, no one comments about the photographic work, which is the main thing here.