How I Found Photography in America

James Alexander – 20 August 2019

I’m from the North East of England, a place called Sunderland. There’s a saying here ‘It’s Grim Up North’ and that is for the most part true. It’s usually wet and grey. The further North you go the more rain you get too. I always describe Sunderland as the Detroit of England. Maybe that’s a little dramatic as the crime is no way on the level of Detroit but it sure has gone through a real rough time and continues to do so. In the 70’s it lost its industry which was ship building, that was a major blow for the region and its never really recovered.

My mother, bless her, decided to get me and my brother out of Sunderland as soon as she could, settling on a place called Durham which is a small Historic City. The main reason for moving was the schooling.

My parents had separated so we would only spend weekends and odd days at my father’s house. My earliest memory of staying there was of my dad putting up an American flag he had just brought back from Los Angeles, in my room, this was probably the first time I had dreamt about one day going to that far away distant place called America.

My dad had worked out in Los Angeles for over a year and would always tell me stories about his time over there. He would play American bands like The Eagles, Jackson Brown and Bob Dylan, these became the soundtrack of my life and I would listen to every lyric dreaming about the day I would eventually get to experience America.

It would be another 10 years or so before that trip would happen. Back in 2007 I made my first trip to America. I was 21 at the time and it changed my life.

I came back to England and finished university where I studied film. I never stopped thinking about America and how one day I would like to go back. I planned a trip to land in Los Angeles and drive to New York. Crazy, right? This was a trip I would make with my cousin. We spent three months weaving in and out different states - I’m proud to say we hit 18 states in total. During this trip is where I found my love for photography.

I’d always dreamt about doing a road trip over America. The ever-changing landscapes were breathtaking, we didn’t have much of a plan and decided to be open to anything that came our way. We spent Thanksgiving in Idaho just because we met a country singer on a random night in LA and he invited us to spend it with his family. The trip quite literally changed my life and made me realize America is the place I want to be full time.

I shoot with a Nikon 35mm and Pentax 645 Medium format Camera.

The main inspiration for my work is the film ‘Paris,Texas’. Seeing America through foreign eyes, like Wim Wenders did, is something I hope to capture within my own work.

I’m currently in development of a feature film entitled ‘Two Sisters’ which is a road movie set in the Californian desert.

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