Joe Alper – photographer of SNCC Freedom Singers in the 1960s
Joe Alper (b. 1925, d. 1968) was a self-taught free-lance photographer, whose black and white photography included portraits and candid shots of people, as well as nature and architecture. His entire work (the current collection of approximately 80,000 negatives is in the process of being digitized) spanned the ten years (between 1958 – 1968) before his untimely death at the age of 43, just after establishing the photography department at SUNY Albany. His photos of folk, jazz, and blues musicians graced many album covers, magazine spreads and books of the 1960s, and demand for his pictures continues to the present. Musicians appreciated his ability to keep his 6'2" frame from blocking them or their audiences, and to either click in time to the music or refrain from shooting during quiet moments (the 35mm Minoltas that he loved and used back then were quite noisy). The black and white images using only available light, the candid shots born of Alper's reverence for the artists and their art and that captured musicians in intense moments of emotion and sweat, his darkroom technique and use of then unconventional photo sizes, all demonstrate Alper's artistry. If you own a folk, jazz or blues recording (or current re-released CD) from the 1960s, you probably have a sample of his photography. Another important focus of his work was the civil rights movement, which he participated in as well as documented. A number of those images appear in the book and film versions of Eyes on the Prize. He traveled and worked closely with the SNCC Freedom Singers. One of those photos appear in this segment of the website.