In 1972, one year after completing his undergraduate degree at Yale where he studied with Walker Evans, Alex Harris moved to New Mexico to photograph the ancianos, the elders in the Hispanic communities of New Mexico. These images were subsequently published in The Old Ones of New Mexico, 1973, his first of several collaborations with psychiatrist and writer Robert Coles.
Admiring Walker Evans's skill at "revealing mystery in what seemed so ordinary," Harris portrays a rich human presence in his photographs taken of his subjects' homes, their gardens and roads, as well as images taken from the back seats of their cars--while the subjects of the portraits themselves are rarely directly present. The lived-in spaces bear the traces of their inhabitants--evidence of what Harris describes as the "human devotion to home."
Initially working in black and white, Harris switched to color film and a view camera in 1980. His rich and varied career has included photographing in North Carolina, New Mexico, and Alaska; teaching documentary photography at Duke University and founding its Center for Documentary Studies; and founding and co-editing the national magazine DoubleTake--which ceased publication in 2005.
In 1990, Harris and writer William deBuys published a non-fiction account of their friendship with Jacobo Romero, one of their northern New Mexico neighbors entitled A River of Traps: A Village Life. In 1992 Harris published probably his best-known work Red White Blue and God Bless You, a portrait of Hispanic northern New Mexico. The title was taken from an inscription in the home of carpenter Amadeo Sandoval, one of his subjects.