Alex Harris

Alex Harris

Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School 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

Harris, A. River of Traps: A Village Life, text by William deBuys. The University of New Mexico Press, September 1990.

Harris, A. Beyond the Barricades: Popular Resistance in South Africa. Ed. A Harris and IT Hill. Aperture, Inc. in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, 1990.

Harris, A. A World Unsuspected: Portraits of Southern Childhood. Ed. A Harris and A introduction. University of North Carolina Press for the Center for Documentary Photography, 1987.

Harris, A. In the Street. Ed. A Harris and M Hoshino. Duke University Press for the Center for Documentary Photography, 1987.

Harris, A. South Africa: The Cordoned Heart. Ed. AH Associate editors and M Sartor. W.W. Norton in Association with the Center for Documentary Photography, Duke University, 1986.

Blom, G. Gertrude Blom: Bearing Witness. Ed. A Harris and M Sartor. University of North Carolina Press/Center for Documentary Photography, 1984.

Harris, A. Understandings, Photographs of Decatur County, Georgia, by Paul Kwilecki. Ed. A Harris and A introduction. University of North Carolina Press, Center for Documentary Photography, 1982.

Coles, R, and Harris, A. The Last and First Eskimos. The New York Graphic Society, Boston, MA, October 1978.

Harris, A. The Old Ones of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 1973.


Harris, A. "Blue Sky." (December 2003). (Academic Article)

Gurwitt, R. "Have Tools, Will Travel." Mother Jones Magazine (January 2003). (Academic Article)

Harris, A, and Gurwitt, R. "Fostering Hope." Mother Jones Magazine (April 2002). (Academic Article)

photograph, C, and Harris, IPBA. "Inside Cars." Ed. P Tarr. 2wice Magazine 5 (2002).


Harris, A. "The Life and Times of Solomon Butcher." a book review for the New York Times Book Review (1991). (Review)

Harris, A. "Decatur County: Pual Kwilecki's Lifetime Document." San Francisco Camerawork Quarterly 14.2 (July 1987). (Academic Article)

Alford, K. "Who’s Idea of Cuba." ReVista Fall/2009. (Review)

Harris, A, and staff, PSW. "Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of A Southern City." Publisher’S Weekly. (Academic Article)


MLK Day and Inauguration Day 2009, Washington DC. Creator. (2009)


In response to the historic nature of Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20, 2009, I traveled to DC to photograph MLK day celebrations and the inauguration. The two resulting photographic series are dedicated to John Hope Franklin and posted on my website.

Sunset Canto From River of Traps. Creator. (2008)


"Sunset Canto" originally appeared in River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, text by William deBuys, photographs by Alex Harris (Trinity University Press, 2008, 1990). It is reprinted with permission. All photographs are by Alex Harris. The photographs on this page is from "Sunset Canto". The photographs in the slideshow appear throughout River of Traps.

Backstory. Visual artist. (2008)


Published in Popular Photography

PDN Photo Annual 2008. Visual artist. (2008)


In Photo District News

Cuba. Visual artist. (2008)


Vagent Magazine no. 2, Norway (Cover photograph for an issue of the magazine about contemporary Cuba.)

Alex Harris Photographs of Cuba. Visual artist. (2006)


Russian Esquire, pp. 162-175

Ann Stewart Fine Art. Visual artist. (2006)

Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon. Visual artist. (2006)