Dominic Alessandra

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About Dominic

 

“Finally, his wit been wholly extinguished, he fell into one of the strangest conceits that ever madman stumbled on in this world, to wit, it seemed unto him very requisite… that he himself should become a knight – errant and goal throughout the world… to seek adventure and practice in person all that he had read was used by knights of yore, revenging of all kinds of injuries, and offering himself to occasions and dangers,  which , being once happily achieved, might deem him eternal renown …he hastened all that he might, to effect this urging desire.”  

Don Quiote by Cervantes

 

 

Dominic Alessandra was born in Buffalo, New York in 1946 and grew up in the suburban village community of Williamsville, during the 50`s and early 60`s. His grandparents were proud Italian immigrants at the turn of the century, working class, with strong traditional family values and unconditional love. Supporting a family of 11, on a small farm constructed from an old trolley barn, they found themselves self-reliant out of necessity, in surviving the hard times in America through both World War I and The Great Depression. His grandfather was once too proud to back down from a dual in a dispute with his neighbor over some wild asparagus. Family members in tears recall both men armed with pistols, ready to kill each other, only to return, arm in arm, filled with both tears and laughter, later to be closest friends. He wrote opera in Italian, invented and patented the first motorized snow sled, and despite language and culture barriers would later become the president of the local labor union. Though he had no formal education, he taught himself to read and write English. He was an ardent believer and proponent of education. These values were passed along to his children, who in turn, as parents for their families, provided both an environment of love and encouragement, along with many memories and accounts about life in the Depression from the 30`s and 40`s.
For his parents, the 50`s were the best times of their lives, living the American Dream, starting a small business, owning a home, and moving into a new neighborhood as American as "apple pie". Not far from their memory were rations for butter and sugar and long lines for jobs on the assembly line that paid 50 cents an hour.
Now was a time in America when the memories of the past were giving way to a new hope for tomorrow and a world in peace. Politicians like Governor Nelson Rockefeller and John F. Kennedy were calling for more science and math, emphasizing education, teaching, jobs, the arts, and physical fitness. Life was filled with opportunity, prosperity and optimism. The fears of communism and The Cold War posed no direct threat to every day living. There were only challenges in education, sports, living in a new environment, with family security and good times taken for granted.
The sudden death of his father on Jan. 7,1960, after his grandfather's loss a few months earlier in Oct. 59, along with the death of his grandmother on his mother's side in April 1960, was devastating. The age of security, innocence, and naivete was over at age 14. Heartsickness, grief, and mourning followed the procession of three funerals, one after the other all within eight months.
Yet unshaken and constant was a mothers love, would prove to be the cornerstone for living each day, along with a faith in God, a gift from the memory and love of his father. To know sorrow and grief first hand and somehow through it all to choose love and have hope and faith would prove to be a blessing, a spiritual source and strength for facing the difficult times ahead that more than a generation would face, in the tumultuous 60`s.
In the midst of an atmosphere of civil unrest, political upheaval, assassinations, drugs, and war in Vietnam, a door was opened for travel, adventure and discovery. Just as his grandfather had passed under the Torch Of Liberty arriving in New York at Ellis Island 60 years earlier, with little more than a hope of freedom from the repression in his homeland of Sicily and the hope for an opportunity in America to make a better life, his grandson, the beneficiary of that better life 60 years later, would return to Europe with only the shirt on his back and a few belongings. His baggage and money having been stolen two days before his departure at the footsteps of Columbia University, a bastion of educational freedom, and free speech in the 60`s. Determined to continue, with a re-issued passport and boat ticket, he gambled his pocket money aboard an Italian ocean liner filled with students bound for Southhampton, England. Interrupted only by bouts of seasickness and ship side wanderings he would arrive outfitted with clothing left behind in the ships laundry room and enough earnings from blackjack and poker to buy a BSA motorcycle in London. Indebted, by the generosity of a retiring Englishman, who included motorcycle, sidecar, tools, spare parts and a leather jacket, all for less than $65. With less than $100 he would set out on an adventure throughout Europe that would forever change his life.
On the one hand his grandfather sailed to get away from hardship and repression to freedom and then celebrated his life in that freedom until he died 60 years later. It wasn't until his grandson would live in a dictatorship under Generalisimo Franco in Spain that this "rite of passage" was complete. Understanding and meaning took hold. Education and freedom meant choices and the choices were unmistakable and clear. It was always life over death, love over hate, education over ignorance, truth over lies, justice, equality, and democracy over injustice, inequality, and despotism, substance over the superficial . Tradition, culture and people over a too material, artificial and hypocritical "civilized" world.
The first seeds of the PAX Corps would be sown as a wider view of the world was taking shape with every opportunity to communicate and travel, from Spain, to Africa, through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and England. The voice was the same, a universal language was uncovered, strengthening the spirit for hope, opportunity and peace as every new day would unfold. From sharing an apartment with a Spanish student in exchange for English lessons in Madrid; to being taken in as a family member by a French family in Paris; to getting through his first culture shock after missing the last ferry leaving Tangier, Africa, for Gibraltar, extending his stay, allowing him a second opportunity to get to know and meet the local people on their level, not as a tourist. The result was forever removing preconceived ideas and opinions, stereotypical attitudes and superficial first impressions. Replacing them instead with real dialogues, positive relationships and direct experiences. Stepping away from passing judgement to preferring closer appreciation of people and culture more naturally. From sharing a ride on a watermelon cart with a friendly Andalucian campesino to riding local trains across the picturesque European landscape; sharing stories and experiences with students and other travelers; from fishing with local fishermen in Santander to hearing the stories and songs of a gypsy horse dealer and flamenco guitarist in Granada; in visiting the Sistine Chapel, viewing the works of Michelangelo and DaVinci in Rome; attending open air concerts under the stars; etc.
He studied at the University of Madrid in 1965 and the International Institute in Santander, and S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo before becoming a teacher of the Spanish language in Springville, New York. As a first year teacher in 1969 he coordinated the Spanish Program and represented his regional district on the counsel of W.N.Y. Foreign Languages Supervisors that were determining the methodology and syllabus in Modern Language teaching for the State of New York. There he found himself face to face with his former Spanish instructor, with 25 years tenure. The entrenched "old guard" Regents language teacher, whose disapproval of his former, immature classroom behavior, was still fresh in mind, as was the constant reminder of her repetitive and boring classes. Somewhere, however, in her classroom was the reason that had led him to Spain in the first place. Whether it was some comment about the people, the culture, or a comment after a bad day, that the world would be better off, should he consider giving up his language studies altogether. Nevertheless, now 10 years later, they sat across from each other on the same board, as equals, with one vote each. Only formalities like election of officers, points of order, posturing and self-pontificating were the order of the day. The trenches were dug deep by the majority guardians of the Board of Regents, to maintain the status quo, resisting any real change.
Nevertheless, given large classrooms and being the only Spanish teacher representing the largest school district by area he initiated a new methodology of cultural diversity in the language program. It was directed to reach the individual needs of the diverse students and the educational responsibilities in the classroom without compromising the integrity of the Regents. Together with the students and parents, the support of the community, Griffith foundation, and a couple of outdoor concerts, sufficient funds were raised to award academic and incentive scholarships to make possible direct cultural and language studies for 24 students to Spain and the following year, another 23 to Mexico
Mr. Alessandra successfully organized and directed language the cultural exchange programs for the American students abroad, in Spain, Africa, and Mexico. He left teaching to pilot PAX an organization complementing formal education with direct hands on experiences. He has lived in Whitby, England, Denmark, Madrid, Spain. Traveled extensively in Mexico, to Central America, throughout North America. Hawaii, and Australia, with the the aim to complement traditional classroom education with "on foot" learning that he hopes will serve as a framework for others to build or enlarge upon by his example, as an inspiration for the PAX Corps today.
PAX, Peripatetic Academia Xenia was founded as an alternative teaching organization consisting of travel, charters and voyages derived from a spirit and dedication to learning. With the concept of the " world as a classroom" following the tradition of Socrates and Aristotle, who taught while strolling about on the shady walks or "peripatos" in the Lyceum in Athens, Greece, to the gardens and groves "academies" of Plato. " PERIPATETIC ACADEMICS " covers on foot, civilization, history, geography, language, literature, art, music, science, ecology and nature trails of the old and new worlds. The participants lead or follow "grassroots" pathways, first hand, to knowledge and learning.
In ancient Greece, "xenia" was the word for a gift given to guests and strangers generally in the form of fish or fruit. The gift he hopes to give students and members is the essence of the word, PAX, meaning "peace' in Latin, a cornerstone of cooperation, understanding and world peace on which students can build a higher and nobler concept of themselves through direct contact and cultural exchange with others.

Where I stand in the 21st Century


Where I stand in the 21st Century is to secure the trust of those previously ignored or not taken seriously to serve to become an expression for the rights of citizens against indifference, governmental neglect, injustice, social discrimination and abuse. To rise above the contingency of time and place in order to uncover the nature of things to have compassion for those unjustly treated, taken for granted or not represented.
Photographically I can say I have been influenced early on by F. M. Sutcliff and Edward Curtis. The work of Juliet Margaret Cameron and a host of early 19th Century portrait photographers have left lasting impressions as well as many others from the 20th Century. I especially like Edward Steichen and Alfred Steiglitz.
However, it would be more accurate to say that the strongest influence or direction in my photography is inspired from the work of Thomas Paine. The greatest political writer of the 18th Century wrote “Common Sense”. His ideas helped to bring about the American Revolution by introducing equal citizenship and true representative democracy by the inclusion of commoners. His thinking contributed to breaking down the hypocritical world of the absolute rights of monarchy and the propertied class, “the great who live profusely.”At a time when England was renown for liberty and good government, it also imposed the most barbarous criminal code where capital punishments were meted out against poverty to protect the status quo from intrusions on their property. “Enclosure” was practiced to the extent that almost everybody else, those who served them dutifully, were increasing driven from the common land. No quiet enjoyment here! It reached such extremes that entire towns were moved when it interfered with a view from a bedroom window and the course of streams and rivers were altered for a “cleansed” rural landscape.Paines’ ideas restored to the rightful place representative citizenry so that it is the foundation of true liberty and democracy around the world. Today while we live in a world that is not 18th century England we do live in a world of globalization and exclusion. In some cases it is not unlike the “enclosure” of old. Today the powers that be around the world from large corporations, special interests, large advertising firms, film, music and media industry support their causes, overexpose the glamorous and famous and nameless others try to sell their images to us every day. My goal is bringing “common sense” in life into photography and to bring images honoring public virtue of a representative citizenry including all races and denominations, of native peoples, of “commoners” restored to their dignity, to exercise their rights for their recognition and equal representation. My goal is creating images expressing representative faces and stories to stand out against the pervading faceless globalization, forever guarding life and nature against potential powerful takeovers, or glossy idol makeovers defrauding humanity. I stand against any progress or hype whenever unleashing hypocrisy and deception or when the power-hungry leads to a powerlessness or violence upon the world. I stand for the abolition of global despotism and ethnic cleansing and stand up for peace against warring nations under one God. A God that shows Truth, Life and Love is supreme over all.The Pax Corps was established for the 21st Century to encourage cultural exchange, respecting culture and maintaining spiritual tolerance, to build a bridge across diverse cultures ready to hold up the torch for light, life, and liberty. By making a bridge across diversity, we face not only each other in conversation and communication, but cross a bridge for better understanding, ready to combine strength of mind, body, and spirit in unity for facing the opportunities, challenges, and problems that confront us all. It provides an opportunity to be personally in touch with the world and people around us to be better informed in order that we can make a difference, offering to extend a hand to build a better world. My photography is the medium I have chosen to cross borders, boundaries, and barriers on this mission. What I hope to achieve is to bring that source of life that “acknowledges soul and spirit” into art and bring that art, the “reflection of a higher ground” back into life, To find more see about the Pax Corps 

Dominic Alessandra

 

 

 
     

©2000, Dominic Alessandra; all right reserved.