Alex Harris

Alex Harris

Professor of the Practice Emeritus of Public Policy

External Address: 
1317 W Pettigrew St, Durham, NC 27705
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90802, Durham, NC 27708-0802
(919) 660-3659


Alex Harris has photographed extensively in the American South, New Mexico, Alaska, and Cuba. His work is represented in major collections including The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, The North Carolina Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, and a Lyndhurst Prize. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous museums including two solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York. As a photographer and editor, Harris has published fifteen books including River of Traps (with William deBuys) a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. His book, [The Idea of Cuba,]( was co-published in September of 2007 by the University of New Mexico Press and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. His most recent book, [Why We Are Here](, a collaboration with E.O.Wilson, was published in 2012 by Liveright/Norton.

Harris was born in Atlanta, Ga., and grew up in the South. After graduation from Yale in 1971, he photographed North Carolina as part of a Duke University research project. Between 1972 and 1978 he lived and photographed in Hispanic villages in northern New Mexico and Eskimo villages in Alaska. During these years, Harris also began to commute to North Carolina to teach documentary photography at Duke.

In 1980 he founded the Center for Documentary Photography at Duke, which he directed for eight years. In 1989, he was a founder of [The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke]( Between 1995 and 1998 Harris launched DoubleTake Magazine with Robert Coles and coedited the publication through its first twelve issues. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Public Policy and Documentary Studies at Duke. Within the Center for Documentary Studies, he is the Creative Director of the [Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program](

Education & Training

  • A.B., Yale University 1971

Selected Grants

Faces of International Migration awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Co-Principal Investigator). 2002

Dan Eldon Exhibit and Symposium awarded by Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1994

Harris, A., and E. O. Wilson. Why We Are Here: Mobile and The Spirit of A Southern City. Liveright/Norton, 2012.

Harris, A. Les musés sont des mondes. Edited by JMG Le Clézio, Gallimard and Musée du Louvre, 2011.

Harris, A., and W. deBuys. River of Traps: A Mountain Life. Trinity University Press, 2007.

Harris, A. The Idea of Cuba. UNM Press and The Center for Documentary Studies, 2007.

Harris, A. Where We Live: Photographs of America from the Berman Collection. Edited by Judy Keller and Anne Lacoste, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006.

Harris, A. Together We Do Good Work: SEWA’s Child Care Program in Gujarat India, by Sara Gomez. Edited by edited by Alex Harris and Sara Gomez, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, 2005.

Harris, A. Arrivals and Departures: The Airport Photographs of Garry Winogrand. Edited by Alex Harris and Lee Friedlander, Distributed Arts Publishers, 2004.

Harris, texts by Alex, et al. Islas En El Tiempo. The Valencia Institute of Modern Art (IVAM), 2000.

Coles, text by Robert. Old and On Their Own. W.W. Norton, 1998.

Harris, A. A New Life: Stories and Photographs from the Suburban South. Edited by Alex Harris and an introduction, W.W. Norton and Double Take books, 1996.


Harris, A. “Pilgrimage to Katrina.” Les Suds Profonds de L’Amerique, edited by Gilles Mora, Democratic Books, 2010, pp. 60–103.

Harris, Alex. “New Mexico photographs.” Migration: Lost and Found in America, edited by Donald McCrae, Michael Weiss Productions, 2010, pp. 96–105.

photographs, A. Harris five. “Handbook of North American Indians.” The Arctic, vol. 5, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1985.

Dukeheart, Coburn. “Why We Are Here: Capturing the Spirit of Mobile Alabama.” Npr Picture Show, 2013.

Noble, Don. “Book about Mobile Explores Why We Are Here.” Tuscaloosa News, 2013.

staff, Atlantic Monthly. “Cover to Cover.” The Atlantic Magazine, Sept. 2012.

Harris, A., and E. O. Wilson. “Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City.” Harvard Magazine, Sept. 2012.

Sledge, John. “Southern Spirit.” The Mobile Bay Monthly, 2012.

Harris, A. “Cuba Through the Windshield.” Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, edited by Deborah Meacham, Center for Latin American Studies, 2011.

Harris, A. “Cuba Libre.” Dutch Esquire, vol. 3, June 2007.

Harris, A. “Game Boy.” Russian Esquire, May 2007.

Freedman, Marc. “Life Begins at Sixty-Five.” In Character: A Journal of Everyday Virtues, 2005, pp. 66–77.

Harris, A. “Outside the Ordinary.” Aperture Magazine, edited by Melissa Harris, Aperture, 2004.


Experience Corps: New Adventures in Service for Americans over 55,. Visual artist. (2004)


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Website (Winter, 2004) (Ongoing interactive web exhibit of my photographs of Experience Corps Volunteers from New York, Boston, and San Francisco./ This web exhibit originally on the RWJF main page.)

In Practice. Visual artist. (2013)

Close to Home. Visual artist. (2013)

The Bunnen Collection of Photography. Visual artist. (2013)

Visions and Voices of HIV Aids in Malawi, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. Visual artist. (2002)


introducatory text panel by Alex Harris, Kirk Felsman, and Alma Blount at the Council on Foundations Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 30, 2002, at European Council on Foundations Meeting, Belgium, July 2002, at the John Hope Franklin Center Duke University, November-December 2002.

Customized: Art inspired by Hot Rods, Low Riders, & American Car Culture. Visual artist. (2000)


The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (In association with a traveling exhibition.)

Handbook of North American Indians. Visual artist. (1985)


In The Arctic, vol. 5 (1985), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Photographs of Robert Coles at Work with Children and Elderly. Performing artist. (2013)


In US News and World Report

Elderly and Undaunted. Visual artist. (2013)


In New Choices

Photographs of Robert Coles. Visual artist. (2013)

Bull City Summer. Visual artist. (2013)

Raising a Neighborhood: Hope Meadows. Visual artist. (2011)


Introduction by Marc Freedman. #3 in the Innovations publications series from Civic Venutures.

The Art of Medicine: Samaritan House Free Clinic. Visual artist. (2011)


Introduction by Marc Freedman. #2 in the Innovations publications series from Civic Venure