medium: sublimated prints on aluminum
2 panels; 56 x 43 inches each
Edition of 3
Since he was a teenager, Neil Alexander has experienced the world through the lens of his camera. What began as, and continues to be his passion, is now also his livelihood. Alexander’s commercial work focuses primarily on documenting architecture, as well as portrait and product photography. He works with architects, urban planners, designers, and industrial and corporate clients.
His personal work has always looked towards the boundaries of place; the confluences of our built and natural worlds, old and new, land and sea. Arriving in New Orleans in 1977, wide eyed and twenty-two, he looked around and found a place that he would call home. Alexander cultivated an engagement and connection of his adopted hometown that has matured and deepened over time. The past 37 years, through his personal and commissioned work, Alexander photographed so much of the city’s architecture, people and culture, documenting local Universities, schools, churches, libraries, municipal buildings, hospitals, museums and many homes. He has contributed his photographic efforts to 3 volumes of the architectural series published by the Friends of the Cabildo. In 1981 Alexander pioneered living in an industrial neighborhood and invested in the historic fabric of the city when he and his wife acquired a circa 1834 town house by the riverfront. The context of his neighborhood had Alexander involved in many of the preservation and urban planning issues that have shaped the look of the city today. Seeing a need to better illustrate many of the issues that confronted urban planners, developers, architects and community stakeholders he created a comprehensive record that included aerial documentation of the riverfront and public housing that was used in the 2004 Riverfront Study.
His body of record also includes his work on award-winning films and books about culture, politics, music and food. Along with two cookbooks and several films about the culinary culture of the region, a selection of films include- Get Down Street Sound 1985, a portrait of Fortier High School marching band. Island of Saints and Souls 1990, explored Catholicism as culture. Celebrating Tradition: Galatoires at One Hundred Years, 2005 an intimate look into a treasure of New Orleans dining. An Eye in the Storm 2005, A first person look at life in the city before, during and after the storm and No One Ever Went Hungry 2011, An inviting exploration into Cajun food traditions from the Prairie to the Coast. Over his career Alexander’s photographs have appeared in museum exhibitions, gallery shows, books and national publications. His first exhibit of photography was a portrait show in 1980 at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center. In 1996, Alexander participated in the first Guns in the Hands of Artists exhibit at Positive Space Gallery in New Orleans. In 2003 his photographs of the Creole building trades, the men and their work, were part of the exhibit Raised to the Trades at the New Orleans Museum of Art. More recently in 2006, Alexander’s photographs and film of Hurricane Katrina were part of the After the Flood exhibit in the United States Pavilion at the 10th Annual Biennale of Architecture in Venice, Italy. He was a presenter at the AIA convention in Los Angeles in 2006 with his photographs of New Orleans before and after Katrina. In 2010, the New Bedford Museum of Art featured his work in a solo show, Five Seasons: Landscapes of Louisiana and Massachusetts.
He is a founding member of Gallery 65 on William, an artist collective, in New Bedford Massachusetts. For the past two years Alexander has also served as an instructor, at the New Bedford Art Museum, in a community outreach program, Our Point of View, which explores self-identity for young women through photography and creative writing.
"I’ve been making portraits of my son Calder since the very moment he came into this world. Lifted from his mother’s womb and placed on the scale, his pediatric nurse took a measuring tape to him. Click went the shutter. The two images in this exhibition, taken eighteen years apart, are the only formal images I’ve ever made of him naked and the only two of him holding a gun.
Though Louisiana is proudly known as the Sportsman’s Paradise, I am not a hunter. Despite raising a son and daughter in New Orleans, which to some is known as much for its violence as its vibrant culture, my wife Nancy and I never felt the need to own a firearm for protection, although we have close friends who do. A break-in robbery, two stolen cars, and friends who had similar experiences, never compelled me to change my mind and purchase a gun. Our kids were raised in a home where their dad shot photographs of the city and its people.
In 1996, as a response to numerous, senseless and violent murders by young men in New Orleans, Brian Borrello put out a call for artists to participate in an exhibit he conceived called “Guns in the Hands of Artists.” My challenge was to create an image that was both disturbing and provocative, an image that challenged our culture’s values. I decided to make a portrait of Calder, naked, innocent, and holding a gun.
Has anything changed? In the eighteen years since I made that portrait I’ve attended three funerals for victims of gun violence in New Orleans. Two deaths were acquaintances of our family, young black men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The third was a friend, a talented artist and craftsman, who was shot in the back of the head after he dismissed a 14 year-‐old boy who demanded that he “Give it up” in broad daylight only blocks from the 2004 Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans.
Over the last two decades our nation has experienced unfathomable acts of gun violence perpetrated by young men in schools, movie theaters, homes, Shopping malls... the list goes on. Just one of these events should have been enough to generate a sea change of public opinion that would send a clear message to our legislators to write new sensible gun laws. Instead, the opposite seems to be true; guns are big business in our democracy. Our public discourse today is about protecting students by arming teachers. “Open Carry” laws mean you can go into a bar, restaurant, super market, or house of worship ‘armed and protected.’
We live in a world saturated by guns and violence. Graphic content, unspeakable 18 years ago, is everywhere through a seamless delivery of news, video games and media. As a photographer, artist, and father I never imagined I would be creating this diptych. Now, my son and I present here, in this forum, a public declaration. Enough is enough!"