Jim Alexander

Studio Artist



Jim  Alexander entered the world on August 7, 1935 in Waldwick, NJ as one of  13 children born to David and Frances James Alexander. Growing up in an  era where opportunities for economic advancement were few and far  between for African Americans, Alexander enlisted in the U.S. Navy in  1952. During his time in Naval boot camp in Bainbridge, MD, one  seemingly minor event would help shape the course of his entire life;  Alexander won his first camera in a friendly dice game. Immediately  putting his new camera to use, Alexander would sell photographs to the  other sailors for fifty cents each.

Once  he finished boot camp he was transferred to a naval base in Charleston,  S.C. to start training as a diesel engineman. While in Charleston he  asked the naval base photographer to look over some of his work,  impressed by Alexander’s natural eye he began teaching him about 35mm  and large format photography.

After  serving four years in the U.S. Navy Alexander returned to New Jersey  putting photography on the back burner for several years before deciding  to enroll in New York Institute of Photography (NYIP). Alexander earned  a degree in commercial photography from NYIP and he went on to earn a  certificate in business organization and management from Rutgers  University.

On  a bus ride from Ridgewood, N.J. to New York he met Eric Maristany. Both  men traveling with cameras in tow they naturally struck up a  conversation. Maristany worked for a filmstrip producer in Ridgewood and  invited Alexander to visit the studio. A few days later he paid the  studio a visit where he met the staff and owner who were producing  educational filmstrips on the civil rights movement. Alexander would  spend many days in the studio as a volunteer.

With  his degree and artistic acumen he soon acquired a very distinctive list  of clients like Ford Motor Company, City of Paterson, NJ, the New  Haven, CT Housing Authority, Johnson Publishing Company, and others.  During this time he also began what would eventually add up to over 40  years of teaching photography.