“…at the Pau Grand Prix in 1955, when an American photographer murmured to me, ‘Is that your Porsche? I’ve got one.’ This was Jesse Alexander, a quiet, gentle, man who was photographing and reporting on European races for various American magazines and living in Switzerland with his wife and four daughters. He had travelled to Pau from Geneva on more or less the same route as I had taken, across the south of France, through Nîmes, Montpelier, Narbonne and Carcassonne, and we compared notes on our journeys. Jesse’s feelings on the Porsche were summed up by his brief phrase, ‘great little cars, aren’t they.'”D.S.J. – ‘Porsche Past & Present’
Jesse Alexander – who has died at the age of 92, in his native Santa Barbara, California – will be forever linked with a golden era of Grand Prix and sports-car racing. His reporting, and more importantly his photography, evokes the age of motor racing as travelling circus.
Cars delicately shaped in aluminium by powerful hands. Machines at the cutting edge, travelling at impossible speed on ordinary roads. Gods at the wheel.
A world where Paris to Lisbon, Zuffenhausen to Palermo was the norm – by road – in convoy with a mate – as fast as you dare.
Jesse discovered the worlds of cars, racing & photography at home in California, but his first great road trip changed everything. The Carrera Panamericana in 1953 had it all. Jesse captured it, and it never left him.
1954 saw the young Alexander family up-sticks and move to Europe, and on that historic July day at Reims he found his calling – travelling Europe making his life & living covering motor racing. Over the following decades Jesse would capture & create some of the most iconic images of our sport.
But not only motorsport.
Jesse’s interests were wide, and this not only manifested itself in his photography. A fascination with architecture saw the Alexander family commission & build a Frank Lloyd Wright house in the Meiringen valley in Switzerland. And when the family returned to Santa Barbara in the early 1970s, they designed an important new house that was the subject of several articles, and this film by Jesse.
So farewell & thank you; brilliant, talented, interesting, interested Jesse Alexander. May the roads of heaven rise to meet your swing-axle.