Alexander Beer, a photographer born in London but raised in the middle and far eastern part of the globe, took to his surroundings as his main point of inspiration. “I really feel that growing up in countries with different cultures, religions, traditions and people sparked my interest in observing people in their natural environments,” he tells It’s Nice That. But really, it was during a stint of modelling work back in the UK that pushed him to pursue a career in the creative industry; in search of a creative outlet while working away with some close friends. Alex picked up a camera and decided to embark on the documentation of their day-to-day lives as models. “This gave me the perfect practice ground to hone my skills, plus it was a lot of fun.”
Now, Alexander works across portraiture, documentary and sport, capturing those around him and shooting in analogue over a 6:7 and 6:6 frame. “It can be many things,” he says in response to what it is that catches his eye. “A beautiful setting, incredible energy coming from somebody’s face, young or old – I find faces fascinating.” Above all, it’s the story that really matters. “The most important thing to me is a narrative within a photographic story; I love documenting people within their lives, whether that be their job, their hobby or their community involvement. To me, imperfection is perfection – someone’s face is the blue print of their life and tells a story in itself. Capturing that is where my passion lies.”
Putting this into practice, Alexander’s most recent endeavours have taken him to all corners of the map. Sink the Pink, a series commissioned for Bricks magazine, saw the photographer come to London to explore social issues within art and fashion – shooting a LGBTQ club night that initially started in 2008 and has since grown into a notorious place of unity, “where everyone is welcome and everyone is celebrated,” he says. Turning a pink-hued lens to the artists involved in the stage performances, he went behind the scenes to document the “energy, nerves and excitement in their faces and bodies.”
Elsewhere, Alexander was commissioned by sports luxe brand Arcminute to document the subcultures of Ghana. Titled Jamestown Boxers, the photographer took his camera to Accra where the young men “dream of a way out of poverty,” he says. Because of this ambition, the area produces some of the greatest boxers in Africa. “The boxers’ faces and energy at the ‘House of Pain’ gym are intense, they are committed and hungry to succeed from being young boys and youths. I really wanted to capture this intensity on camera,” he continues. “Once one of the young boxers agreed to be photographed, they all wanted to join in.” This drive and fearfulness is key throughout the series which, combined with an “authentic and raw” gym setting, creates a collection of strong and expressive portraits that capture the livelihood of its locals in its truest form.
What’s more is that the photographer has just returned from South Korea, during which he worked on a commissioned TV series for the Discovery Channel. “I had the privilege to photograph people in their natural habitats, including noble scholars of Dodongseowon Confucian Academy in Dalesong – which was beautiful, intriguing and peaceful – and the women of the sea, known as Haenyeo.” For hundreds of years, women in the South Korean island of Jeju have made their living harvesting seafood by hand from the floor of the ocean. “There is a community of women, some in their 80s, who go diving 10m under the sea to gather selfish – such as abalone or sea urchins – for a living without the help of oxygen masks,” explains Alexander. “With knowledge of the sea and marine life, the Jeju Haenveo (female divers) harvest for up to seven hours a day, 90 days of the year, holding their breath for just one minute for every dive and making a unique verbal sound when resurfacing.”
With clear determination and an enjoyment for photographing the people of the world in their environments, Alexander’s work in unmistakably raw. “It’s all relative to their location, lifestyle and culture, I find it so fascinating,” he says. Next, he plans to sign off a further project with the Discovery Channel and is in the planning stages of shoots in Egypt, Israel, Los Angeles and Berlin – all before Christmas. “Busy times ahead, but that’s how I like it.”
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.