Robert Alexander Papers

Date Range: 19621987
Survey Conducted: Thu, 2009-11-12
Creator: Alexander, Robert (1943-1989)

Robert Alexander (November 21, 1943-October 8, 1989) spent most of his early life in Brooklyn, eventually working as a freelance photographer and photographer’s assistant in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. His slides and prints of New York City during the seventies and eighties are a lively record of a city undergoing intense change and they reveal a fascination both with the ordinariness of city life and the grandeur and strangeness of the city itself. Alexander’s first resumes indicate that by the early seventies he had begun to think of himself as specializing in performance photography. While he did not achieve the broad recognition of some of his contemporaries such as Peter Moore, Alexander’s work is an important contribution to the documentation of experimental dance and performance of the seventies and eighties. He photographed most of the major experimental choreographers, dancers, and performers of the period, including Stuart Sherman, Kenneth King, Simone Forti, David Gordon, Valda Setterfield, Laura Foreman, Carter Frank, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Douglass Dunn, Rudy Perez, Meredith Monk, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, and A/P/A artists Yoshiko Chuma, Min Tanaka, and Ping Chong.

By the mid-eighties Alexander was doing less and less dance photography and more photography of the city. The collection includes thousands of slides of Manhattan dating from this period, many of which reveal Alexander’s interest in ordinary street scenes and people. Most, however, are of the city’s skyline and monolithic architecture, and testify to the photographer’s obsession with the city that he lived in all of his life and which he left only briefly as a young man.

Sources: The Fales Library & Special Collections. “Guide to the Robert Alexander Papers.” Accessed November 9, 2009.

International University, Global Theatre Experience. “Min Tanaka.” Accessed November 6, 2009.

Kaufman, Joanne. “A Loft Filled With Street Treasures.” New York Times, June 18, 2006. Accessed November 6, 2009.

Ping Chong and Company. “Ping Chong and Company: History.” Accessed November 6, 2009.

Yoshiko Chuma and the School of Hard Knocks. “Biography: Yoshiko Chuma.”

Summary: The Robert Alexander Papers are a part of the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library, New York University.

The Robert Alexander Papers comprise mainly of photographs, contact sheets and negatives, and slides. There is one box of personal papers, correspondence, and memorabilia, and two boxes containing other media, such as 16mm and Super 8 films and audio cassettes. The negatives and contact sheets have been kept in chronological order, as Alexander had organized them, and the prints and slides have been arranged alphabetically. There are three boxes of unprocessed material at the end of the collection.

Included in the collection are prints, slides, and negative contact sheets of Asian/Pacific/American dancers and choreographers including Yoshiko Chuma, artistic director and choreographer of The School of Hard Knocks, renowned and award-winning Min Tanaka, and theatre director Ping Chong. Of note are several prints of Chong’s performance of Paris (1974) with Meredith Monk, slides and negative and contact sheets of Tanaka in performance, and prints and slides of Chuma in performance and rehearsal.

Total Size: 14 linear feet, 41 boxes
APA-related Size: 1 linear foot, 1 box
Languages of materials: English
Arrangement: other
Location: Fales Library & Special Collections, New York University
Bibliographic Control: finding aid
Finding Aid Link:
Conditions Governing Access: Open to researchers without restrictions; Appointments are necessary to consult archive and manuscript materials.

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