He's long agitated on behalf of the master race, but when David Duke turns to photography, his products are no masterpieces
In case his letter somehow escaped your mailbox, it turns out that David Duke has kept hidden from the public a whole other side of himself. Not surprisingly, given that it's Duke, the revelations came in one of his groveling appeals for money. It turns out that the ex-Klansman and ex-convict who said AIDS is "the only disease that turns fruits into vegetables" is no hatemonger after all. Indeed, "love and beauty inspire all that he does," according to a brochure hawking Duke's photographs.
The guy who once said that "niggers are primitive animals" and decried "Jewish supremacist power"? He's actually a sensitive artist. (Of course, so was Hitler.) In typically modest prose, Duke, or whoever crafted the brochure, wrote: "In addition to his brilliant writing, teaching, speaking and political skills, Dr. Duke has a wonderful photographic and artistic ability."
Perhaps a huge ego or extensive cosmetic surgery causes blurred vision. It's not that Duke's photos of Alpine meadows and streams are terrible. They're simply ordinary and mundane — the kind of postcard pictures your neighbors might insist on showing you, never mind that you're bored out of your mind after 10 minutes. Perhaps recognizing this, Duke chose to tinker with a few of his works of art. His colorization of a cityscape of Salzburg, Austria, and of a print called "Autumn Snow" look like Timothy Leary or Peter Max got hold of them. The ghost of Ansel Adams can rest easy.
Now, Duke is peddling these gems in an effort to raise money. In December, he mailed a letter to supporters on letterhead reading "Representative David Duke" — he hasn't been a Louisiana state representative since 1992 — offering prints for $99 a pop, or six for $500. His letter is punctuated by six exclamation points (!), so great is his excitement over his self-perceived genius. Duke said the money is needed to cover "a big financial loss" that his group, EURO, incurred during "our triumph in Memphis."
EURO is the European-American Unity and Rights Organization. Duke and his cohorts were banished from three hotels in succession in the Memphis area in November as they tried to stage a conference. EURO finally found a hotel that would have him — but a "triumph"? The event, scheduled for three days, was reduced to a single day. And while EURO had expected about 300 people to show up, only 75 to 100 did so, according to reporters who attended.
All of that hotel-hopping apparently was costly. Hence the sale of prints of his photographs, which measure about 28 by 39 inches. "Starting with one of his own finely composed photos, he then adds artistic flourish in color, brightness, contrast, composition, line and form to make a truly beautiful photo-artwork that will captivate and inspire you," gushes the brochure offering the masterpieces.
And best of all: Each print is numbered and signed by the renowned neo-Nazi in gold ink. Those inflated prices are but "a fraction of gallery prices," according to the brochure, which claims that Duke's work "has been quietly displayed" in Europe under a pseudonym. (Of course, potential buyers might want to remember that Duke went to federal prison for more than a year in 2003 after using the mails to defraud his own followers. Money raised for his political work was actually spent on gambling and personal expenses.)
That hyperbole is only exceeded by this purple prose in the brochure: "Preserving the heritage of European Mankind is Dr. David Duke's life task. He sees our people as a beautiful expression of God and Nature, a people of purpose here on the Living Earth and someday even having a destiny in the stars."
That kind of writing makes his photographs look almost artistic by contrast.