5 Questions: Photographer Diane Alexander White

DIANE_ALEXANDER_WHITE_AGE_24_MAXWELL_STREET_PHOTO_BY_FRANCIS_L Diane Alexander White, Age 24 | Maxwell Street Photo by Francis L

Born and raised in Chicago, Diane Alexander White has lived an urban existence that has refined her eye as a photographer. After receiving a Communications Design/Photography B.A. from The University of Illinois, Chicago, Diane served as a photographer at the Field Museum for 25 years. In addition to photographing natural history collections, Diane created three photography exhibits showcasing the extensive Native American collection of artifacts. The exhibits called, “With Patience and Good Will: The Art of the Arapaho,” “Cheyenne Visions” and “Travels of the Crow: Journey of an Indian Nation”, traveled to museums and tribal lands of the Plains Indians. Funding was granted by NAGPRA, The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

People photography has been a passion for Diane whether photographing an urban face in the crowd or creating images for corporate clients. She is currently scanning film images from the 1970’s through 2000’s of neighborhood festivals and parades for future exhibits illustrating Chicago’s rich cultures. Photographs of the infamous Disco Demolition rally taken in 1979 have been published extensively in print and film. Photography continues to inspire Diane as she seeks that next illusive image.­­

Check out more of her work at her website, or on Instagram.


Darth and the Girls at the Santa’s Fantasy Parade, Chicago, 1981 © Diane Alexander White


1. What’s been keeping you up at night? 

The most pressing thoughts are will I succeed in scanning, keywording and uploading film before I check out permanently? A working photographer’s personal work is relegated to the back burner for a myriad of reasons. Scanning film is a time consuming process while juggling a work load. On the other hand if I don’t organize my archives for posterity who will?


Toddler in Sombrero at the Mexican Civic Parade, Chicago, 1981 © Diane Alexander White


2. What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or heard lately? 

The Art Institute of Chicago has an exhibit called “Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950-1980” that must be seen. The photos depict the grittiness of juke joints, churches and street scenes in Chicago during a time when I was growing up on the South Side and in the early days of my life as a photographer.


Blues Band at Maxwell Street, Chicago, 1974 © Diane Alexander White


3. What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?  

The joy of seeing newly scanned images from film archives that date back from 1970’s to the present is one that still gives me a thrill. In my early years as a photographer I printed selected images based upon contact sheets and until you scan an entire roll there is more than meets the eye. The detail on the desktop reveals a world unknown up until now. Can you imagine a time when analog ruled the day? We were governed by snail mail, print media, vinyl, tapes, landline phones and the darkroom process to share photographs. The digital advantage is that by uploading images online I am able to hear back from people who recognize their friends and family. Sharing creates knowledge.


Taking Shelter at Maxwell Street, Chicago, 1974 © Diane Alexander White


4. If you could add anyone, alive or dead to your team, who would it be?

Being of Greek descent my first choice for a sidekick is Alexander the Great who by the age of 33 conquered Persia, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Bactria, the Punjab and Egypt.

With that kind of cred I’ll get all of the help I need for conquering my archives. 


Geisha’s at the Japanese Festival at the Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago, 1981 © Diane Alexander White


5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called? 

The title for the movie that describes my life is “Kickin’ my Ball“, which is a song by White Mystery (my house band). I’ll stop kicking the ball when I’m 6′ down. Until then, stay alive and keep kicking!


I Can Paint Your Nails at the Gay Pride Parade, Chicago, 1976 © Diane Alexander White





Puckering Up at Festa Italiana at the Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago, 1981 © Diane Alexander White





Bleacher Boys at Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1979 © Diane Alexander White





Shredded and Wet at Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1979 © Diane Alexander White





Chinese New Year Parade Onlookers, Chicago, 1975 © Diane Alexander White





King Kong at North Avenue Beach at the Air and Water Show, Chicago, 2009 © Diane Alexander White





Harold’s Chicken Shack Cadillac at the Bud Billiken Parade, Chicago, 1981 © Diane Alexander White



The process works for me by an instinct that is motivated by a flash of light in my brain. When the photograph reveals itself I dive with camera wearing a smile, take the photo and disappear to capture the next photo until the film is ready to roll out. Fortunately I almost never encounter push back from the subject. There are times where permission is merited especially if the subject deserves a few extra shots to insure that, “the one” is captured. Photographing crowds is often times more interesting than the action itself and to observe details from the scans onto the desktop is an emotional one. Where are they now and who recognizes them today?