Jesse Alexander

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For over fifty years, Jesse Alexander (born 1929) has travelled the world documenting motor sport’s most iconic races, legendary drivers, and memorable moments. Alexander’s legendary archive of motor sports photography provides a thrilling insight into the Golden Age of racing.

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Early Years

Jesse Alexander started photographing motor sports when the post-war period of austerity gave way to the technological advancements and the ensuing rise of racing in the 1950s. His career as a photographer began when he went to shoot the original Carrera Panamerica, better known as the Mexican Road Race, in 1953, widely considered the most dangerous road race in the world. He has said: ‘1953 is when the whole thing began for me. One thing was clear: I loved cars. Another love of mine was photography. So, with these two passions, the choice seemed obvious, to marry the two.’ It was on the Carrera Panamerica that Alexander met famous drivers including Juan Fangio and Eugenio Castellotti. He then moved to Europe to cover Formula One and the long distance races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio, before returning to the United States in the late 1960s.

The Grand Prix

In 1955 Alexander went to Monaco to photograph the Grand Prix for the first time. His photographs of the races, cars, drivers and spectators capture the excitement and glamour of these hugely popular events. He captured famous faces such as Princess Grace of Monaco and Steve McQueen. The most advanced cars of the day, Maseratis, Mercedes, Ferraris and Porsches, rush into Alexander’s shots, through jubilant crowds and auspicious surroundings. The narrow roads of the course provided a challenging environment in which to photograph but Alexander would always seek out the most advantageous viewpoints from which to shoot.

Alexander also took portraits of the drivers, their friends as well as the mechanics and engineers. One photograph in particular provides an intimate close-up of Jim Clark, the Scottish winner of 25 Grand Prix. The brilliantly candid portrait from 1962, showing Clark’s face marked by his goggles and the dirt of the track, is particularly poignant given the tragic, fatal crash that would curtail his celebrated career in 1968. He was killed in a Formula Two motor racing accident in Hockenheim, Germany in 1968. At the time of his death, he had won more Grand Prix races and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions than any other driver.

Exhibitions and Publications

An international array of museums and galleries has exhibited Jesse Alexander’s photography. His work is held notably by the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Akron Museum and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Alexander’s publications on racing photography and the history of motor sports include Driven (Chronicle Books, 2000), Portraits (David Bull Publishing, 2008), and Inside the Archives (David Bull Publishing, 2010). He lives and works in Carpinteria, California.

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Notes, News and Press

Notes

The Golden Age of Motorsports