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About The Artist

     Born in 1937 and raised in San Jose, California, Alexander Lowry was exposed at a young age to the art of photography while shadowing his father at the local newspaper. This early experience and an encounter with the 1955 photography exhibition "The Family of Man" sparked Lowry’s lifelong career as a photographer. In his development as a photographer Lowry explored numerous themes and subjects including landscapes, architecture, abstract design, and wildlife photography. However, as the epitome of a street photographer, Lowry, continuously returned to the documentary tradition by exploring the world of the ordinary everyday experience through the medium of his lens.

     “I have always photographed life going on around me in the documentary tradition- real people living their lives.” ~ Alexander Lowry

     Shortly after graduating from Willow Glen High School in 1955, Lowry entered the United States Army and was stationed for the first two years in France. In 1957 Lowry began his foray as a street photographer, wandering the avenues of Paris. It is perhaps during his retreats to Paris that Lowry found his inspiration as a street photographer and began focusing his lens on everyday subject matter. As he stated “I cannot say that I go out looking for anything in particular -- I just go looking. It is like hunting without knowing what you are hunting for but I am always at a high state of alert.” In these early years, he self published two books: Santa Clara County: A Second Look in 1965 and the Tutorial Project in 1968.

     In 1967, Lowry began shooting wildlife and nature photography, eventually publishing a series of books: Big Basin in 1973, Castle Rock in 1973, and Critters in 1978. These projects challenged a young Lowry to examine the world through his lens while negotiating with the harsh outdoor conditions and the limitations of natural light.

     After leaving the Army, Lowry returned to the San Jose Valley where he was employed as a photographer by the San Jose Mercury News. It was here that Lowry was exposed to new subjects and areas of interest which he began to consciously explore through his lens. Much of his involvement as a journalist documentary photographer propelled his subject matter toward political and agricultural content. Lowry’s experiences with journalistic photography influenced his style and his chosen area of subject matter as his works began to explore the documentary subcategory of street photography.

     It was in the San Jose and Santa Cruz areas that Lowry further explored his artistic method, compiling a large collection with both street and documentary photography styles present in his photographs. He taught photography courses at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension Program in photography and was for a time both the UCSC campus photographer and the Santa Cruz County photographer in 1989.

     Lowry retired to Mount Shasta County with his wife Sharon. He enjoyed the peace of fishing, nature, and continued the pursuit of his artistic craft photography until he passed away from cancer in December of 2010.

For further information visit:  www.alexanderlowry.com

Al Lowry: From the Perspective of Mrs. Sharon Lowry
Interview conducted by phone, May 2011 by Maayan Stanton

Maayan Stanton: Could you talk a little about his philosophy of photography?

Mrs. Sharon Lowry: Al felt he made his first significant photograph in Paris in 1957 – significant as in a photograph that mattered. It was a personal image that he made because he wanted to make it, not because it was an assignment from an entity like a newspaper.
     A major influence was the discovery of the book The Family of Man. He was very moved by the power of the documentary photograph produced by a skilled and astute observer. His photographs were made in the documentary and documentary journalistic tradition. His interests were not directed to major events or fads, but of ordinary people doing everyday things. He took the same approach to wildlife as he did photographing people. It was a matter of patiently observing in the hope of seeing something unique. He would say, “You just have to be in the right place at the right time, hopefully with the right equipment and know how to put it all together.” He also often said that, “Images are made in the brain, captured by the camera and then the printmaker goes to work.” Al felt good photography is no more about the camera than good writing is about the typewriter or computer, or good painting is about the brushes and canvas.
     He was a printmaker. His photographs were about making beautiful prints. I remember him saying that “The capture is the score and the print is the performance.” The comparison to music originally came from Ansel Adams who was both a photographer and a pianist and in Al’s mind Ansel set the standards for printmaking.

MS: When he would go out looking, did he ever have any particular direction or expectation of what to photograph?

MSL:Al had a compulsion to photograph everything, whether it was political, a beautiful river, or a sign. It’s kind of the way he communicated—visually. Instead of his work being essays, or a book, or that sort of thing, it was images that would speak to people, hopefully. He would say, “I can’t tell you what the pictures are about, it just has to speak to you.”
     His photography wasn’t straight documentation, as in, “This is what the street, cars, and buildings look like at this moment in time.” That kind of documentary photography is valid, but his kind wasn’t that straight forward. Al had to have something happening. His brain caught that moment—his eye, the light. There were often a lot of things going on in his images.
     He certainly did try to make statements. There was a political rally in Santa Clara where a young man is holding up a sign that says, “Nixon likes animals.” History could make something out of that. Al just captured it. Sure, it was an innocent sign at the time but he saw something else in it.

MS: What was it like living with and being married to a professional photographer?

MSL: It was wonderful. His work was a way of life for the two of us. We shared many parts of it. We were together when most of the images were made. He photographed wildlife for ten years, but didn’t consider himself a wildlife photographer. While he worked some in color, his first love was black and white. I don’t know if he “saw” in color at all, probably more like shades of gray. He printed some landscapes and abstracts in color. He had a good sense of design. He printed some of the river pictures in his last project of the Sacramento and McCloud Rivers in color. He had fun with pictures—he had a positive outlook on life. He enjoyed the irony—you can see that in some of his photos.

MS: Did he have any hobbies?

MSL: He was an avid fly fisher. He had been all his life. His father started him fishing and camping in his childhood. We camped throughout the west—from Yosemite to Yellowstone to Colorado. The places where you find great fishing were the same places you wanted to be to photograph wildlife or landscapes. An offshoot was photographing birds and because of that, we became birders. Later in life, we would take birding trips with friends. He always had his camera with him just in case but it got to the point where he could just look at the birds. I went with him when he went fishing but I would hike or read a book. We could go on hikes, look at birds, and get lost in the area—becoming one with nature.
Al enjoyed cooking—we cooked together. We would have a really nice meal in the evening and share the events of the day. We always had a lot to talk about and then all of a sudden it would be three or four hours later. Even if it was a simple meal, it was a special part of the day. It was a reward for the day.

MS: How did the two of you meet?

MSL: Al was the first campus photographer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and I was an administrative assistant to the Assistant Chancellor of University Relations (public relations office). Our paths crossed often when he would cover the various events on which I was working. There was something magical there. I started in January of 1967 and he had been there for a year before that. We were married in March 1968.

MS: What made you decide to move away from Santa Cruz?

MSL: We had lived in Santa Cruz for about 35 years and it was time to decide where we wanted to spend our retirement years. The major draw for Mt. Shasta was the trout fishing. Al wanted to be closer to the fishing without having to drive six hours. It’s such a beautiful area, very rich and gorgeous. He still wanted to make pictures—he just didn’t want to do them for hire. He wanted to concentrate on his personal work. He had more ideas than he had time to accomplish. He never ran out of things to do.

     In Mt. Shasta, he made some abstract and color images. He did a project on trash. Some items he photographed in place, some of the items he picked up and brought home and put on the scanner. He was interested in these individual pieces as objects. The resulting images were sometimes mysterious and often beautiful. He had ten years of being personally productive. He was so pleased to work when he wanted and to fish when he wanted. There was something about the peace, the environment and the time to work, and the creativity just flourished. It’s kind of an amazing path. He worked right up to the end.

MS: Your favorite photograph?

MSL: A photo of my father. He was sitting at a table with my then young nephew. My father is taking out his false teeth and my nephew is leaning over peering with an incredible sense of wonder, as if to ask, “what is going on here?” My nephew is grown up now, a doctor, married with children of his own and living in Colorado. The photo is under People, Gallery II on Alexander Lowry’s website, titled: Grandfathers False Teeth, 1972.

Published Works and Exhibitions

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2008, "Parallel Paths--Fifty Years," Spectrum Art Gallery, Fresno, CA
2007, "TRASH," College of the Siskiyous Art Gallery, Weed, CA
2006 "Recent Prints," Hanson Howard Gallery, Ashland, OR
2006 "All Sorts of People, 1957-1998," Viewpoint Gallery, Sacramento, CA
2005 "Wildlife," Upper Sacramento River Exchange Center, Dunsmuir, CA
2005 "Wildlife," The Brown Trout Gallery, Dunsmuir, CA
2005 "At Home and Abroad," Gallery three nineteen, Mt. Shasta, CA
2004 "Rocks," Upper Sacramento River Exchange Center, Dunsmuir, CA
2003 "Early Work - 1957-1977," UC Santa Cruz Extension, Cupertino, CA
2002 "Folks," College of the Siskiyous, Weed, CA
1998 "Little Histories," Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, CA
1996 "Wildlife Photographs," The Research Libraries Group, Mountain View, CA
1993 "Certain Californians," Oxford Facility, UC Santa Cruz Extension, Santa Clara, CA
1987 "Seventeen Birds, Six Mammals and a Jellyfish, Bay Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA
1986 "Wildness at the Middle Coast," Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, CA
1982 "Alexander Lowry Photographs," Los Robles Gallery, Palo Alto, CA
1978 "Critters," Los Robles Gallery, Palo Alto, CA
1977 "Alexander Lowry Photographs," Singing Stone Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA
1967 "Tutorial Project," University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
1965 "Alexander Lowry Photographs," Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, CA

GROUP EXHIBITIONS (Selected)
2009 "The Elements," Liberty Arts Yreka Gallery, Yreka, CA
2008 "Bounty," Liberty Arts Yreka Gallery, Yreka, CA
1997 "Elkhorn Observed," Pajaro Valley Arts Council, Watsonville, CA
1995 "Picture This," History Museum of Santa Cruz County, CA
1994 "Les Femmes, Women Portrayed in Art," The Pope Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA
1990 "Reflections on Disaster," Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC
1990 "The Human Figure," The Art Gallery, Lower Columbia College, Longview, WA
1989 "Through the Lens," Juried Exhibition, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
1971 First Annual Members Exhibit, Friends of Photography Gallery, Carmel, CA

PUBLIC OR INSTITUTIONAL COLLECTIONS
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz City Museum of Natural History, Santa Cruz, CA
Sempervirens Fund, Los Altos, CA
Silicon Valley Bank Corp., Cupertino, CA
University of California, Santa Cruz (Library Special Collections), Santa Cruz, CA

PUBLICATIONS
Books:
CRITTERS, Published privately, 1978
BIG BASIN, Sempervirens Fund, 1973
CASTLE ROCK, Sempervirens Fund, 1973
TUTORIAL PROJECT, Published privately, 1968
SANTA CLARA COUNTY: A SECOND LOOK, Published privately, 1965

Photographic Contributions:
THE SALINAS VALLEY, Windsor Publications, Inc., 1989
RESTLESS PARADISE: SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Windsor Publications, Inc., 1987
IN THE OCEAN WIND, Glenwood Publishers, 1974

Magazine Features and Photographic Essays (selected):
"Spotlight, Alexander Lowry," B&W Magazine, April, 2004
"San Joaquin Winter," WESTWAYS Magazine, 1977
"An American Heritage," U.S. CAMERA/CAMERA 35 ANNUAL, 1972