Nubar Alexanian

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Nubar Alexanian is a documentary photographer whose work has been featured in major magazines in the United States and Europe including The New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, GEO, Time and Newsweek. For the past 35 years he has travelled to more than 30 countries focusing on long term personal projects which describe the human condition. In 2008 he completed his fifth book, "NONFICTION" PHOTOGRAPHS BY NUBAR ALEXANIAN FROM THE FILM SETS OF ERROL MORRIS, (Walker Creek Press) a 15-year collaboration with filmmaker Errol Morris. Solo exhibitions of this work have been shown at The Walker Art Center, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Caren Golden Fine Art Gallery (NYC) The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, The LOOK3 Festival, and Clark University.

Early life and education[edit]

Nubar Alexanian was born in 1950 in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was the second of four children and was prized as the first son in an orthodox Armenian family. He was the grandson of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and grew up speaking Armenian with his grandfather who lived in the apartment upstairs, only learning English upon entering elementary school.

Alexanian was the first in his family to go to college. He attended Boston University for two years in the thick of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and it was then that he first began taking pictures in an effort to understand and describe what he saw. Alexanian explains, "a camera gives you the license to do almost anything. I picked up a camera as a way of getting closer to what was happening in Boston during that era." [1] He describes "the power of photography" as an act of witness: a way to observe the world up close, in a personal way. When describing himself as a student and a budding photographer in a competitive field, Alexanian credits growing up in a working-class family with giving him the motivation and work ethic to succeed as a photographer.

After two years at BU, Alexanian took time off to attend and teach at the New England School of Photography. He then left photography school and later became a member of the first class in the University Without Walls program at the University of Massachusetts, where he got credit for teaching at the New England School of Photography from 1973-1974. He graduated in 1974 with a BA in Liberal Arts.


After his time as an instructor at the Art Institute of Boston (1972–1974) and at the New England School of Photography (1973–1975), in 1975 Alexanian co-founded the Essex Photographic Workshop, one of the first residential photographic programs in the country, located in Essex, Massachusetts. He since has conducted workshops and given lectures all over the world, including the ICP in New York and the Gaudí School of Photography in Peru. More recently, Alexanian has facilitated critique groups in the Boston area for photographers who are working on long-term personal projects.


Alexanian's first trip out of the country was to Peru in 1974. From 1978 to 1989 he traveled extensively to Peru documenting the life and culture of the [Andean] people. He received a Fulbright Artist Fellowship in 1983 to continue his work in Peru, allowing him to live and work there for six months. The culmination of this work, Stones in the Road: Photographs of Peru, documents the migration of the Andean culture from the mountains to the shanty towns in and around Lima, one of the many tragedies caused by civil war and a growing illegal drug industry.

In 1996 Alexanian published his first major color project, the book Where Music Comes From. This work, five years in the making, documents the creative processes of twenty-five musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Philip Glass, Emmylou Harris, and Paul Simon, among others.

After traveling extensively for Stones in the Road and Where Music Comes from, Alexanian turned toward his own town: Gloucester, Massachusetts. His book, Gloucester Photographs, depicts the town he knows and loves so well, making this work both documentary and autobiographical.

In 2002, in collaboration with Wynton Marsalis, Alexanian published JAZZ, a collection of images and quotations that illustrate the musical conversation between Marsalis and his audience.

In 2005, Alexanian shot fifty portraits for the best selling book This I Believe, which also aired as a radio series on National Public Radio from 2005-2007.

Alexanian recently completed his fifth book, NONFICTION Photographs by Nubar Alexanian from the Film Sets of Errol Morris, released in the spring of 2008. This work is a long-term collaboration with Errol Morris, comprising stills from the sets of Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, Mr. Death, and Standard Operating Procedure, among others.


  • The Professor of Swing, 1998, cinematic portrait of Wynton Marsalis, work in progress.
  • The Clifford Ball, 1994, co-director of a documentary film about the band Phish that aired on MTV. 30 minutes.
  • Flamenco Shorts, 2004 Director & Director of Photography, shot in HD on sound stage in Halifax, Nova Scotia, four short films of flamenco performances.
  • Flamenco Nuevo, 2007 Director & Director of Photography, four camera HD shoot in Spain about a flamenco troupe, 90 minutes.


Perfect Hearing, a radio documentary about tinnitus and hearing loss, produced by Nubar Alexanian and Abby Alexanian, with Jay Allison. Aired in February 2004 on This American Life.


Life Magazine[edit]

  • Garth Brooks, July 1992
  • Wynton Marsalis, August 1993
  • Paul Simon, November 1993
  • Phish, May 1994

New York Times Magazine[edit]

  • Coming Out Of Coma, a photo-essay about the thousands of people in the U.S. who go into comas each year and the care they receive. June 1982.
  • A Passion For Peru, a photo-essay about life in Peru. November 1983.
  • Mario Vargas Llosa, about Peruvian novelist running for president in Peru. November 1989.
  • On The Verge, about Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. May 1990.
  • Hope and Heartbreak, about the maquiladora industry on the Mexican border. July 1990.
  • Why Is America Failing Its Children? About impoverished children in America. September 1990.
  • Unsettled, Unseen, Unspoken For, about a Puerto Rican community in a Yankee town. April 1991.
  • Baseball's Angry Man, a profile of National League President Bill White. October 1991.
  • A World Of Leaves, about The Yuqui Indians of Bolivia and the New Tribes Mission. February 1992.

Fortune Magazine[edit]

  • The Rev Jessie Jackson, November 1982.
  • The Brain, January 1983.
  • The Mercantile Exchange, Chicago, September 1983.
  • Weirton Steel Company, April 1985.
  • Adnan Khashoggi, September 1985.
  • Bill Gates, Microsoft, July 1986.

Geo Magazine[edit]

  • Steel Island, June 1983.
  • Where The Fish Come First, February 1981.
  • Premature Infants, June 1998.


One Person Shows[edit]

  • 2008 May, Standard Operating Procedure, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • 2008 May, Standard Operating Procedure, Caren Golden Fine Art, New York.
  • 2008 March, Standard Operating Procedure, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • 2007 October, Standard Operating Procedure, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
  • 2002 Retrospective, Panopticon Gallery
  • 2001 November–January 2002 Cape Ann Museum, Main Gallery
  • 1997 Leica Gallery, Two Person Show
  • 1992-1993 Traveling exhibition of Photographs of Peru in England
  • 1993 March, The Burden Gallery, Aperture Foundation New York
  • 1993 May, Panopticon Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1992 March, Centro Cultural de l'Universidad de Arequippa, Peru
  • 1992 August, Centro Cultural de la Municipalidad de Miraflores,Lima Peru
  • 1992 November, Casa Cabrera, Cuzco, Peru.
  • 1983 Nov. William Klein Gallery, Boston; World's Apart: Photographs of Peru
  • 1978 Soho Gallery, New York (two man)
  • 1976 University of Vermont (two man)
  • 1973 Gallery One, New England School of Photography
  • 1973 Panopticon Gallery, Boston

Group Shows[edit]

  • 1972 Polaroid Collections Committee Show
  • 1972 photokina, West Germany
  • 1972 Art Institute of Boston
  • 1976 Addison Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts
  • 1978 University of Massachusetts Criticism of Photography Show
  • 1998 Creative Center of Photography, Tucson, Arizona
  • 2000 Into Our Prime: Acquisitions Since 1996, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson
  • 2002 Panopticon Gallery


  • Agfa Corporation Collection
  • Bose Corporation Collection
  • Cape Ann Historical Museum
  • Polaroid Collection
  • Carl Siembab Gallery Collection
  • Panopticon Gallery
  • Robert Klein Gallery
  • University of Arizona Permanent Collection
  • Bibliothèque Nacionale, France
  • Numerous Private Collections

Awards and Grants[edit]

  • 2004 Third Coast Festival Award, Perfect Hearing Best Radio Documentary Honorable Mention
  • 2000 Gloucester Arts Council Grant
  • 1999 Bruce J. Anderson Grant
  • 1990 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant, Finalist
  • 1984 Gold Medal Award, New York Film and Television Festival for photography
  • 1983 Fulbright Artist Fellowship for photography in Peru
  • 1982 Andy Award of Excellence, New York Art Director's Club
  • 1983 Polaroid Instant Art Campaign: Annie Leibovitz, Nubar Alexanian, Pete Turner, David Bailey, & Sandy Fellman.

Articles About Nubar Alexanian[edit]

  • 2008 May, A conversation with Nubar Alexanian
  • 2001 December, North Shore Sunday, Arts Section
  • 2001 December, Gloucester Daily Times Editorial
  • 2001 November, The Boston Phoenix by Christopher Millis
  • 2001 November, artsMedia Magazine by Taline Voskeritchian Featured Artist
  • 2001 November, Boston Sunday Globe Arts Section by Haley Kaufman
  • 2000 November, AIM Featured Artist
  • 1996 American Photo, Where Music Comes From
  • 1996 The Picture Professional, Where Music Comes From
  • 1996 Mother Jones Hot Media, Where Music Comes From
  • 1996 May, NPR, Weekend Edition with Liane Hansen interview/review of Where Music Comes From
  • 1996 The British Journal of Photography, Where Music Comes From
  • 1992 October, Boston Globe, review of Stones In The Road
  • 1992 October, American Photo Magazine review of Stones In The Road.
  • 1992 September, British Bulletin of Pub., review of Stones In The Road.
  • 1992 September, Royal Photographic Society of England
  • 1992 May, NPR, Weekend Edition, interview and review of Stones In The Road
  • 1983 Boston Globe review of World's Apart Show
  • 1981 April, Camera Magazine Portfolio: Hostage Parade NYC
  • 1980 June, Diversions Magazine
  • 1979 October, Portfolio Magazine
  • 1978 March, Criticism of Photography Invitational Exhibition Catalogue
  • 1975 April, Camera Magazine
  • 1972 Boston Globe Review