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Bernard Kleina

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Artist Statement

Bernard Kleina

Since 1965 I have had the privilege of photographing ordinary people doing extraordinary things and extraordinary people doing exceptional and uncommon things.

I photograph in color because life is in color. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, talking about my Chicago Freedom Movement Exhibit in their Gallery, said,
These photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Chicago in 1966 are some of the first color photographs that the world saw of Dr. King. Mr. Kleina captured one of the most violent missions Dr. King undertook, and it wasn't in the Deep South.
Buying an expensive camera doesn't make you a photographer any more than standing in a museum makes you an artist. It takes patience, curiosity, courage, talent and an adventurous spirit. And you need to have a purpose. Gordon Parks says it best:
Those people who want to use a camera should have something in mind, there's something they want to show, something they want to say. I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty.
I photograph so that others can see what I saw, feel what I felt and better understand what perhaps I understood for the first time. My camera is not just an extension of my eye, but an extension of my heart. Senator Elizabeth Warren said, "There is no virtue in Silence." My goal in life is to break that silence with my photographs.

Someone once said, "A work of art should melt the frozen rivers of the heart." Each of us in our own unique way is a "work of art" capable of healing wounds, softening pain, inspiring involvement, nurturing understanding, opening doors to compassion, discouraging discrimination, helping each other face the future with hope and, above all, melting "the frozen rivers of the heart." This is what I try to do with my camera and with my life.