RIGHT FACE: DON'T SHOOT TILL YOU SEE THE WHITES THROUGH ROBBIE MCCLARAN'S EYES.: ANGRY WHITE MEN

By Published on .

Photographer Robbie McClaran is fascinated by politics, but prefers to remain an outsider. "I don't involve myself much beyond placing a bumper sticker on my car," he admits. Nevertheless, raised by his politically active mother in Arkansas and finding himself in the early '80s in Dallas ("Ground zero for the Reagan mentality," as he puts it), he found his calling-documenting the heart of the far right wing. Much of McClaran's work takes on an ominous fascination. Indeed, he finds his subjects "a lot more interesting to shoot than some CEO or a movie star."

Although McClaran does have other photographic interests (he's done ads for Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Oregon State Lottery, for example), the majority of his editorial work addresses conservative and right-wing issues. Many of his political photos-from a Ku Klux Klan rally and Jerry Falwell's crusade against pornography sales at 7-Elevens, both taking place in early '80s Dallas, to a shoot of accused Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh-have been included in his self-published and award-winning book, Angry White Men, which evolved out of shoots he did on assignment for publications such as The New York Times Magazine and Time.

McClaran, 41, whose work is seen with an extraordinary frequency in the Times Magazine, decided to roll with the angry white men idea in 1994, when the year's election results were considerably unbalanced and the political buzzwords were God, guns and gays. "Most Americans didn't vote," professes the Portland-based photographer, "but the right wing did. It's all about a very small but very vocal minority affecting the majority."

Incorporating the writing of McClaran and excerpts from stories in the Times Magazine and Time, Angry White Men was released last October after McClaran collaborated with the Portland design firm Johnson & Wolverton. It was published by McClaran himself because of its somewhat controversial subject matter; he says he didn't want it watered down just so it could be a moneymaker. But, consequentially, he's also found it difficult to find distributors. It's sold now at places such as the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, New York's MoMA and the Friends of Photography in San Francisco, but it's not an easy sell. McClaran says he's heard a few times over, "We can't sell this book. No one wants to buy pictures of Nazis."

While the photographer says he's not looking to make a political statement with Angry White Men, the 52-page volume has an undeniable point of view in simply grouping these activists together, but it does not criticize nor does it applaud. "It's not the Uniphotographer's manifesto," he jokes, adding, "it's more of a documentary. I wanted to put a face to this movement, this recent political shift to the right."

Designers Alicia Johnson, Hal Wolverton, Jeff Dooley and Robin Muir at Johnson & Wolverton composed the book so that it resembles an historical document of sorts and, simultaneously, a slapped together newspaper collage. The typography represents the implosion and decay of the white power base of the middle class. Although the fonts used are pulled from '40s and '50s Life magazine-style works, the lack of fluidity in their layout is unsettling. Text provides texture, and functions to subtly accentuate the photography. The whitest point on any page is found within the photograph itself, a play on the concept of "whiteness"; each page is a different shade of white flesh, and the cover itself has been described as resembling bruised white skin.

An exhibit of McClaran's work will be at the Saba Gallery in New York, opening

In this article:
Most Popular