Under This Sky is a series of photographs taken at sites where lynching’s occurred in the Southern United States. When I moved to the South from the Northeast I often saw the Klan in full regalia, in their hoods and full-length white robes. I saw them set up at theFairgrounds Flea Market selling key chains and other paraphernalia. It scared me, it took __ three passes for me to get up the nerve to walk up to their table and buy a key chain with KKK cut in brass. I saw another Klansman at the Collinsville Trade Day walking around with a rifle in his hand. On the way to the beach riding in a car with my family I saw them stop cars in the street, as we road up to a small town square. They stopped us, leaned on our car and stuck their white-paper-wrapped coffee cans with KKK written on them through our window and asked for a donation. I saw a sign taped on top of a real estate sign announcing a Klan Rally coming up. I returned on that date to photograph in Gardendale on a Sunday night.
I read the New York Times on Sundays to keep in touch with my home base. I opened it one Sunday to an article on the lynching of Michael Donald and the successful verdict awarded to his mother of 7 million dollars. She did not receive that amount but she received the rights to property in Tuscaloosa and Mobile. The verdict essentially bankrupted the Klan and any future assets they held were awarded to the settlement. The case was supported by Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, it was a “verdict that marked the end of United Klan’s” and changed the view of white robes in the landscape.
Many years into the project I suddenly remembered that my father witnessed the aftermath of a lynching when he was a child. It happened near his home in Mountain View, California. He talked about it when I was young, he said “they just left the body hanging there for everyone to see.”
When he was in his 70’s he moved to Alabama with my mother to be near my family. He visited a local historic landmark which was in the midst of setting up for a Halloween event, a fright night tour. He saw a stuffed figure with a rope around its neck hanging from metal beams. He had a very emotional response, all these years later. He was angered and distressed by the symbol of the noose and figure so cavalierly hanging like lynching was a game.
The photographs in Under this Sky are taken standing at the spot the victim would have been in, looking up, placing the viewer in the hollow space that the victim held, completely alone when he or she was alive, the last moments, the last view.