EDUCATOR'S GUIDE: REFRAMING AMERICA, Through the Eyes of Seven Immigrant Photographers


Alexander Alland was born in Russia in 1902. He became interested in photography as a boy and made his own camera out of cardboard when he was twelve. In 1923, fleeing civil war in his homeland and then again in Turkey, he came to the United States on a steerage boat. He was just twenty-one years old. On his second evening in America, he stood in Times Square in New York City, completely fascinated by the people, the cars, the city lights, and all things American.

For Alland, being an American meant sharing "the desire for happiness, prosperity, and liberty," no matter what one’s racial or national background might be. In his photography, he respected and celebrated things that made people different. At the same time, he sought to capture themes that unified people of many backgrounds. His own experience gave him insight into the conflict that immigrants still face between their desire to keep and remember the languages and traditions of their old country and the need to learn the skills necessary to succeed in their new country. Alland died in 1989.


© Estate of Alexander Alland

Alland’s photograph of a newspaper stand shows us evidence of a multicultural society, one where many languages are spoken. A non-English speaking immigrant would have needed to find work and a place to live and would surely have welcomed a newspaper written in his or her native language.

Alland photographed this scene from eye level rather than from above or below. This angle makes the view like our own, as it would be if we were walking up to the newspaper stand.

To guide your students in a discussion, ask questions like:

Photomontage, c 1943
© Estate of Alexander Alland

In the 1940s, Alland experimented with different ways to display photographs. He produced large photomurals (billboard-size photographs) for the public library in Newark, New Jersey. He also collaged many photographs into one image. A good example of the latter is his Photomontage, which depicts well-dressed American children from many racial backgrounds. Their images overlap a large map that shows where various ethnic communities have developed in the United States. Their teacher is pointing out locations on the map.

Note: the teacher is the photographer’s wife, Alexandra, and the pupil on her right is their son, Alexander Alland, Jr.

To guide your students in a discussion, ask questions like:    This page last updated August 18, 1999.

| Contents | Angle, Framing, and Light  | Learning to Look | Alexander Alland | Robert Frank | John Gutmann | Otto Hagel and Hansel Mieth | Lisette Model | Marion Palfi | Glossary | Acknowledgements | CCP Home |
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