Alex Prager (born November 1, 1979) is an American art photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her photographs primarily use staged actors, models and extras to create "meticulously designed mise en scène”, often described as film-like and hyperreal. Prager’s growing filmography expands the fictive realities of her still works, touching upon themes of alienation and the pluralism of modern life.
Prager began her photography practice after viewing an exhibition of William Eggleston's at the Getty Museum in 1999-2000. Her staged color photographs are described by Ken Johnson as being influenced by Cindy Sherman, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Douglas Sirk.
In 2005, Prager created a group of works, The Book of Disquiet, as an exhibition and joint publication with artist Mercedes Helnwein. She began to gain more attention after exhibiting Polyester in 2007, which focused on Southern California and portraits of various women and girls. Her next series, titled "The Big Valley", was shown in 2008 at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London and in 2009 at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York. In 2010, along with the series Week-End, Prager created her first short film, Despair which was based on her earlier photographic work. Inspired by the 1948 film The Red Shoes and set in 1960s Los Angeles, the four-minute film chronicles the struggle of a ballerina – played by actress Bryce Dallas Howard – whose obsession with dance conflicts with her need for love, ultimately leading her to suicide. The film was included in Museum of Modern Art's exhibition "New Photography 2010" where Prager was recognized as a notable emerging talent.
In 2012, Prager addressed themes of disaster and spatial turbulence with the series Compulsion. Prager's second short film "La Petite Mort" was made simultaneously, starring French actress Judith Godreche with narration from Gary Oldman. The film was a "contemplation on death" and according to Prager, devised from a more traditional film understanding.
Prager's series, Face in the Crowd, debuted at Washington D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery of Art in 2013. Shot on a Hollywood soundstage, Prager re-built spaces of dense public gathering - city streets, a movie theater, a beach, an airport. She filled these sets with personally selected and dressed friends, relatives and 150 extras, culminating in large-scale photographs and a 10-minute three-channel video installation starring actress Elizabeth Banks. Face in the Crowd magnifies Prager's characteristic evocation of timelessness whilst maintaining an acute awareness of the contemporary plight.
In 2015, Prager was commissioned by the Paris Opera to create a film for 3e Scène. The film, La Grande Sortie, explores the tension between a performer’s experience on stage and the audience watching. It stars prima ballerina Émilie Cozette and features leading dancer Karl Paquette dancing to an adapted score by Nigel Godrich. The film was produced by Jeremy Dawson. La Grande Sortie premiered at 3e Scène on September 15, 2015.
Beginning in October 2015, La Grande Sortie was presented as part of a solo exhibition by Prager at Galerie des galeries in Paris, alongside a new set of photographic works.
- "Silver Lake Drive", Thames & Hudson (ISBN 0500544972)
- “Face in the Crowd”, Corcoran (2013) (ISBN 0615901743)
- “Compulsion”, Michael Hoppen Gallery (2012) (ISBN 0615613055)
- "The Big Valley / Week-end", M+B and Yancey Richardson Gallery (2010) (ISBN 0615339182)
- 2010: New Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York
- 2012: "Compulsion," Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam
- 2012: "Compulsion," Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York
- 2013: "Mise-en-scène," Savannah College of Art and Design.
- 2013: Face in the Crowd, Corcoran Gallery of Art
- 2014: "Alex Prager," The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
- 2014: "Face in the Crowd," The Arts Club, London
- 2014: "The Noir Effect," Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
- 2014: "Face in the Crowd," M+B Gallery, Los Angeles
- 2015: "Alex Prager," Istanbul '74, Istanbul
- 2015: "Alex Prager," Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
- 2015: "Alex Prager," Galerie des galeries, Paris
- 2018: "Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive", The Photographer's Gallery, London
- 2018: "Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive", Musée des beaux-arts du Locle, Le Locle, Switzerland
- The Museum of Modern Art, New York
- The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
- Moderna Museet, Stockholm
- National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
- Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland
- Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
- North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
- Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
- Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich
- Fondation Carmignac Gestion, Paris
- Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
- Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul
- 2010: Despair starring Bryce Dallas Howard
- 2011: Touch of Evil, New York Times
- 2012: La Petite Mort starring Judith Godreche, Gary Oldman
- 2012: Sunday
- 2013: Face in the Crowd starring Elizabeth Banks
- 2015: La Grande Sortie starring Emilie Cozette, Karl Paquette
- 2018: Uncanny Valley starring Cate Blanchett
Prager has received several major awards for her work, including an Emmy Award for the New York Times-commissioned piece Touch of Evil, starring Jessica Chastain, George Clooney, Glenn Close, Kirsten Dunst, Rooney Mara, Brad Pitt, and others. In 2012, Prager received the Paul Huf award from Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, accolading her as one of the most distinct voices in contemporary photography.