top of page
Glancer Magazine

15 FASCINATING FACES OF THE YEAR | Bernard Kleina of Wheaton

by Kristen Kucharski


Each year Glancer Magazine features a distinct group of residents who are doing extraordinary things, making a difference in the lives of others by giving them hope, guidance or inspiration. Each is so talented and has persevered through all that COVID-19 has presented this past year. Their stories will touch your heart and awaken your spirit. Here are Glancer Magazine's 15 Fascinating Faces of 2020.

Bernard Kleina

WHEATON–Bernard Kleina has seen a lot over his 85 years of life. He has been taunted, hit by rocks, bottles and cherry bombs; he has been spat upon and has been arrested as a Civil Rights marcher and photographer. Since 1965, he has had the privilege of photographing ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and extraordinary people doing exceptional and uncommon things.

Bernard photographs, so that others can see what he sees, and feel what he feels.

“Someone once said, a work of art should melt the frozen rivers of the heart,” Bernard shares. “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.”

Bernard’s photography of the Chicago Freedom Movement documents the first color photos of Dr. Martin Luther King in Illinois and are currently online and exhibited in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. as well as “In Focus", a 2021 exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum about fair housing, will feature 32 of his historic photographs.

His photographs tell the truth of our nation's struggle for equality, justice and freedom, and capture some of the most violent missions Dr. King undertook. MLK’s efforts to focus on open housing and ending racial and economic segregation inspired Bernard to also work for equality in housing and housing-related issues for more than forty years with a local Chicago area Civil Rights organization.

When he’s not photographing protest marches or men and women who have suffered the humiliation and hurt of discrimination, Bernard enjoys perusing old bookstores with his wife Sue and photographing landscapes and other subjects that relax his mind and nourish his soul. He has been a Wheaton resident for 40 years and has also served on both national and local Boards of Directors that work to ensure equality and justice.

Bernard concedes that discrimination still happens today in so many ugly and hurtful ways, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. All of us see it, feel it, fight it, hear it, ignore it, profit from it, tolerate it, initiate it, provoke it, perpetuate it, suffer from it or die from it.

“The good news is that today there are so many people who are doing the right thing, who respect their neighbors, who love our country - and perhaps this African saying might help: "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito."

Top Photo by Mike Catuara, Other Photos Submitted by Bernard Kleina