Art exhibit showcases '79 KKK rally

A new exhibit of never-before-seen photographs of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Gardendale in 1979 goes on display Friday at Beta Pictoris gallery in Birmingham.

UAB professor of photography Sonja Rieger took the pictures shortly after moving to Birmingham in 1979 from New Jersey.

The professor says this KKK rally opened her eyes. She felt like she had moved to a different country.

Rieger describes the experience as terrifying and surreal.

The photographs are now being shown because she was able to use digital technology to print the large images herself.

Among the pictures of the Klan rally, are images of clouds and sky around Birmingham, illustrating the gathering storms in comparison to smoke billowing from a burning cross.

Rieger says, the images serve as a reminder of the past and present.

"What it was in our culture in 1979, where, here in Alabama we had this happening. And that there's this spectacular beauty here too," says Rieger.

The timing of the show coincides with the start of Birmingham's observance of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement.

The show will open with a free reception from 6-9 p.m. Friday night at Beta Pictoris Gallery located at 2411 Second Ave. North.

The exhibit will be on display through February 22