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Photographer points lens at ordinary

By Richard Guzman, The Orange County Register
Published: May 25, 2024, 5:48am

Throughout his long career as a photographer, David Alexander has been at the center of pop culture, shooting album covers for artists such as The Eagles, Aretha Franklin and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and iconic posters for films like “The Blues Brothers” and “The Terminator.”

But for his first photography book, the 80-year-old pointed his lens at something much more ordinary.

“A lot are photographs of just regular people living their lives but they’re people in the world and I started seeing these connections between all living things,” said the Los Angeles native, whose debut book is “Pictures of Time: Seeing Time in the Ordinary World.”

The 124-page collection is made up of images that at first glance seem, well, ordinary — but deceptively so. Alexander uses his artist’s eye to place images together in dialogue.

For example, there’s a photo of a woman talking on her cellphone, her hip slightly bent; it’s paired with a picture of a tree with a slightly curved trunk, each echoing the other. Another is a close-up of a person’s eye, and next to that is a picture of dark clouds that appear to be the eye of a storm. In one, he captured a couple entwined in a romantic embrace, mirroring it with a photo of tree branches twisted together.

For Alexander, these images are all connected by nature and he hopes his book unveils these natural links often hidden in plain sight around us.

“So, photographing a tree or a person, or a flower or a weed, to me they were the same as I realized that what I was looking at was life, and that’s what I photograph,” he said.

But his book goes even deeper than just showing similarities in shapes.

“I realized that what my subject was wasn’t the tree in front of me or the tree in front of me. My subject was time, that time is the quality that binds everything in life. That’s what I became fascinated in and that’s what the book is about,” he added.

Before becoming a photographer, Alexander got a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. But one day, realizing how much he disliked it, he made a life-changing decision.

“Until I was in law school, I’d never taken pictures. But I knew the law wasn’t right for me and it just occurred to me one day that I would probably enjoy doing photography, So that was it. I just basically made that decision,” he said.

So he bought his first camera and began shooting. “I just taught myself how to shoot photographs,” he said.

His keen eye led to a decadeslong career as a commercial photographer shooting iconic images like the cover for the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” as well as album covers for Franklin, Petty, James Brown, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner and many others.

“I just knocked on doors and made some connections, and one job led to another and I was really into what I was doing,” he said. “I started seeing the world differently and I started seeing things I’ve never seen before once I picked up the camera and started looking through the lens, and it was amazing.”

After retiring from commercial photography in the late 1980s, Alexander continued taking pictures of anything that caught his eye, which led to this book.