Alexander Harding was born in 1980 in Boston, Massachusetts. He received his BFA in Painting from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2002. In 2003 he completed an additional year as a special student in Photography. In 2011 Harding received His MFA in Photography from MassArt. Using Photography and other media, Harding’s work explores our physical and emotional connections to sunlight. Unlike most photographers, Alexander’s work explores it as a subject.
If you had to describe what you do to someone you’ve just met, what would you say?
“I try to make photographs of how light works, in order to try and discover more about it.”
Initially, what got you into this? Where did it all begin?
I had this curious way of tracing light and shadows on the walls in my studio. I realized I was looking for a way to preserve the light. To make it stay for longer. I began to understand that it was the light itself I was interested in.
What do you prefer- the technique, or the raw photograph? Why?
I really enjoy the technique – making the photograph, as it’s always unclear what the final image will look like. I really enjoy going through the process of decision-making. As for the final product, I enjoy that as well, because you never truly know what it will turn into. It’s always a surprise.
Describe a day in your work life.
When I’m working, I wake up early and start cleaning the studio. Once things are clean and clear, I start arranging the things I’ll photograph. This is always the longest part. I always work from previous drawings, so I use this as the basis for the setup. I always play music and try to make the first photographs look like the drawings as best I can. I always shoot alternates, though.
Describe an ideal day in your work life.
An ideal day for me is really not that different. I guess the more idealized part would just include it resulting in a photograph that I felt worked well.
How did you reach the platform you’re at, presently?
I ended up choosing photography, because I was a painter and the paintings I was making didn’t do what I wanted them to do. They just weren’t working. I tried making photographs as an exercise and I liked how they came out, so it stuck. I’ve mostly made photographs since then.
What would the last line of your autobiography be?
“No matter what I had done, I always sought more.”
Which one of your own works has influenced you the most?
Light reflecting off two mirrors. It was the biggest surprise as far as what I saw versus what the picture looked like. I was truly astounded.
Which of someone else’s works has influenced you the most, and why?
Mark Rothko: To this day, they get me on a physical and emotional level, each time I see them. This kind of experience is so hard to explain without sounding silly, but it happens each time. This is why I make art in the first place. I’m seeking an investigation that produces the same sensation.
What are you currently working on?
I’m continuing working on producing some images from working with light. I’ve also begun expanding my work to include photographing some other situations. I’m not sure if/where these fit in, but I’m working on them at the same time as the light pictures.
What, according to you, is more important- the idea, or its execution?
Certainly, it’s the execution. If it doesn’t turn out right, I do it over and over until I get it right. Some of my pictures that you see are my tenth or eleventh attempt at recording a situation.
What does it take as a person, to do what you’re doing? What were the circumstances involved?
It takes a lot of thinking, all the time about the work. It never stops, and sometimes it’s frustrating. In order to make things work, it takes me working out the problem long before I take the camera out. I have to be really organized and patient, which I’m not, all the time. I try to be, but it doesn’t come naturally.
If you were a pizza delivery guy, how would you benefit from scissors?
I would probably use them to make some sort of sculpture from the pizza boxes, if that’s all I had, to choose from. I would be involved in art, in any form, even if my means were limited.
How do you balance you personal and professional lives?
I try my best, but honestly, it is quite difficult. My art and personal life, I try to separate very much from my time at work. It works better if they are completely isolated from each other.
If you were a box of cereal, what would you be? Why?
Cheerios. It’s good for you, but you enjoy it as well.
What’s your least favorite thing about yourself?
I wish I felt a more permanent satisfaction from making something. It is a fleeting feeling.
With regard to what you’re pursuing, do you have a story for your grandchildren?
I would honestly tell them about the experience of being surprised with the Light Reflecting off Two Mirrors picture. I feel that it’s very important to be surprised when making something, once it begins to emerge.
What has been your best experience while interacting with people who respect your work?
I met an author in grad school, and I’d read a lot of his work. I was so excited about this opportunity. We had a great conversation and I remember it well. The next day, he blogged about my work. I couldn’t believe it. It was a thrill.
Do you believe in the butterfly effect?
I do. It’s certainly facilitated more easily with the technology and social media in which photography is disseminated. I don’t know if I’m making a difference, but I hope so. I’d like my work to encourage people to recognize the small but powerful things that are already around them.