Jesse Alexander, 1929-2021
Jesse Alexander, 92, a photographer who documented the golden age of motorsport, passed away on December 14, 2021, in Santa Barbara. He was comfortable and at home, with his beloved wife, Nancy, by his side, holding his hand.
Jesse was born on April 15, 1929, in Santa Barbara to Florence Louise Lyman and Junius Beverly Alexander. Jesse grew up in Montecito where he attended The Howard School, then went to boarding school in Massachusetts at Fessenden, and then Pomfret in Connecticut. Jesse returned to California for college at UCSB, where he studied photography and met his first wife.
They moved to Europe with the first of their four daughters, where Jesse would document the international motor racing scene as a photojournalist from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, counting its players as his closest friends. His pictures captured the on-track danger and glamorous spectacle, defining the sport for a generation of fans.
Jesse’s ability to feature the human element of motorsport made his images more than just a record of thrilling events and elegant machines but also evocative fine art. His photographs have been published in countless publications and now hang in the homes of collectors, galleries, and museums.
After all his professional success and global acclaim, Jesse most loved being a “happy snapper,” documenting the everyday beauty of life in his hometown, Santa Barbara. Jesse’s kindness, grateful spirit, and persistent sense of wonder will live on in the hearts of all those who knew him. And the legacy of his empathetic eye will be shared by everyone he reached but never met.
Jesse is survived by his wife of 56 years, Nancy Alexander, and their son, Jess; and his first wife, Patricia Beckham, and their daughters, Rori, Heidi, Andi, and Susie. Along with nieces and nephews, his many grandchildren, and most recently, the first great-grandchild.