Alex Harris was born in 1949 in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in the South. He attended Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University. After graduation from Yale in 1971, he photographed in North Carolina as part of a Duke University research project. In 1972 he began a collaboration with Dr. Robert Coles that would result in six years of photographic work in New Mexico and Alaska and in the publication of two books with Coles: The Old Ones of New Mexico (UNM Press 1973), and The Last and First Eskimos (New York Graphic Society 1978).
During these years, while continuing to live and photograph in northern New Mexico villages, Harris began to commute to North Carolina to teach documentary photography at Duke University. In 1980 he founded the Center for Documentary Photography at Duke which he directed for eight years. Subsequently he became a founding member of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke and is currently a Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Studies at Duke. At the Center for Documentary Studies he is creative director of the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program.
River of Traps (UNM Press 1990), his book with writer William DeBuys, was a 1991 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. His next, Red White Blue and God Bless You, was published in 1992 by UNM Press in association with a national traveling exhibition that opened at the International Center of Photography in New York City in 1994. A selection of Harris's photographs was published in 1998 in Old and On Their Own (W.W. Norton) with text by Robert Coles and additional photographs by Thomas Roma. His book The Idea of Cuba was published in 2007 by UNM Press in association with CDS. As an editor, Harris has published: Gertrude Blom: Bearing Witness (UNC Press 1982) with Margaret Sartor, A World Unsuspected: Portraits of Southern Childhood (UNC Press 1985), In the Streets by Helen Levitt (Duke University Press 1988), Beyond the Barricades: Popular Resistance in South Africa (Aperture 1989), and A New Life: Stories and Photographs from the Suburban South (Norton 1996). Airport, a book of photographs by Garry Winogrand that Harris edited with Lee Friedlander was published by DAP in the spring of 2002. In 1995 with Robert Coles, Harris launched a new national magazine, DoubleTake, and worked with Coles as co-editor through March of 1998.
With colleagues at the International Center of Photography in New York, Harris has curated a number of international traveling exhibitions. His own photographs are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Addison Gallery of Contemporary Art, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography, a N.C. Visual Artist Fellowship from the NEA, and a Lyndhurst Award. Harris is married to Margaret Sartor, and they have a son and a daughter.
Harris's work can be seen on the Web at http://alex-harris.com.