Peter Alessandria, ‘83, was once a lawyer for production companies in Hollywood and is now a professional photographer.
Alessandria was born on Long Island, but his education and his career led him to travel across the country, finding new passions on the way.
While reminiscing about his time back at Binghamton University, Alessandria specifically remembered the vibrant social life and the people who supported his educational journey.
“College was a very special time for me and [BU] was the perfect place,” Alessandria said. “For the first two years, I lived on campus — at Hinman [College] and College-in-the-Woods. The suite styles were nice since they encouraged bonding with others and making friends. My fondest memories are the people — both my classmates and instructors who had a lot to offer toward my education. This was a wonderful time in my life.”
Alessandria’s time at BU was filled with indecision about his career goals, starting with a focus on the sciences, but eventually finding a passion in law.
“Originally, I was thinking premed, thinking maybe medicine or psychology,” Alessandria said. “That all changed when I took organic chemistry. I changed my major pretty quickly and moved toward economics and business. Eventually I decided to go to law school and graduate business school.”
After graduating, Alessandria began his work in law. He originally worked as a lawyer for production companies in Hollywood where he would sometimes step onto a movie set to monitor the creative process. Being assigned this task was one of the pivotal moments in jump-starting his photography career, according to Alessandria.
“Working in Hollywood was the impetus for me to discover my own creativity,” Alessandria said. “Before then, I knew very little about the creative process. The first time I was on a movie set was very exciting. This spurred me to [become] an amateur filmmaker, which in turn, led me to try still photography. That’s been my passion since 2002.”
Alessandria identified the 2008 financial crisis as the moment that he began to get involved with photography.
“I spent six months trying to restart my law business without any luck,” Alessandria said. “I decided to change from seeing it as a crisis to seeing it as an opportunity. I thought, ‘If I could do anything with my life, what would it be?’ The answer was ‘photography.’ So I uprooted my life, moved back to the East Coast and left my legal career behind. I pursued photography full-time after that. You have to remember I’ve never taken a photography class.”
When Alessandria was beginning his career as a photographer, he submitted his work to multiple art shows, to varying results. Alessandria described his lack of confidence, which included worrying about not winning an award for any of the work he submitted — until one of his first photos won.
“I submitted the photo as a way to counteract my negative thoughts and beliefs,” Alessandria said. “Winning the award surprised me because I never saw myself as an artist nor did I have any training. My background was economics, law and business. The photo itself is of a cool local ice cream store in New Jersey. It’s kind of an old-school ice parlor with lots of neon. There are kids standing on a bench eating their ice cream looking back into the store. It has sort of [an] Americana vibe — some have said it’s Norman Rockwell-esque.”
As a photographer, Alessandria said he finds his work to be something important in today’s culture, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained its use in storytelling and capturing shots he believes are important for people to see.
“Photography has always been a way for people to express themselves,” Alessandria said. “Photography is also important in terms of journalism and helps preserve our democracy [since] news relies on photos and video to inform and educate viewers. In terms of culture and society, obviously social media is the predominant way many people stay connected. In this way, photography has become an integral part of our social fabric.”
Recently, Alessandria has had his work published by local and national publications worldwide. He described some of the most impactful photos to both him and his audience.
“Impactful for me is my love of the NYC area,” Alessandria said. “I remember my trips to Manhattan as a child and seeing the skyline. Coming back 30 years later and photographing that skyline has been very meaningful for me. In terms of impact on other people, probably my collection of photos of the full moon rising over the New York’s landmarks. Some of those photos have been published worldwide. Millions of people have seen them.”