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Alex was born in Paris in 1962. As daughter of Life magazine photographer Pierre Boulat and of Annie, founder of the Cosmos photo agency she grew up surrounded by photography. She trained in graphic art and art history and became a painter, but as war broke out in Europe in 1991 she joined Sipa Press and headed for the Balkans where she established herself as one of the very few women conflict photojournalists.
Although dismissive of the image of the macho war photographer she had the determination to compete at the highest level and an intrinsic understanding of the needs of publishers. Soon her conflict photographs were being published in Paris Match, Newsweek and Time magazine.
In Perpignan in September 2001 Alex joined with James Nachtwey, Christopher Morris, Gary Knight, Ron Haviv, Antonin Kratochvil and John Stanmeyer to form the VII Photo Agency.
At a difficult time in the industry fate decreed the new agency would flourish : Christopher Morris, searching for beurre marin for his French wife missed the agency’s first commission – a Time magazine story on gambling in the Caribbean. James Nachtwey said he’d take the job and flew to New York to pick up his kit. The next morning two planes flew into the the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and Nachtwey was on hand to record the explosive birth of the 21st century. Look again at the agency’s logo.
Alex’s Paris apartment became VII’s first office. But before long she was on the front line in Afghanistan documenting the effects on ordinary people of the first battles of the ‘war on terror’. After the Taliban’s grip on power loosened Boulat travelled throughout Afghanistan and then Iran documenting the lives of women.
In 2003 she moved on to Baghdad for National Geographic where she recorded city life as the next conflict in the region was ratcheted up. After covering the invasion of Iraq Alex began to document the everyday lives of Palestinains in the Gaza Strip.
In Ramallah Alex fell in love with the Palestinian film maker Issa Freij. Often Freij would collect her in his car on the Israeli side of the border after she had spent a day on the streets of Gaza.
Then, in June 2007, while working in the Palestinian territories Alex suffered a brain aneurism. She was taken by Palestinian ambulance to the Israeli border where she was transferred to an Israeli ambulance and rushed to a hospital in Jerusalem. It was to be her last border crossing.
Although she was flown on to Paris as soon as her condition stabilized she never regained consciousness and died on October 5th, 2007.
Alex was posthumously awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award.
ALEXANDRA BOULAT : HER LIFE AND WORK
• ‘Remembering A Compassionate War Photographer’ by Kurt Mutchler
• ‘Diary of a War’ : Alexandra’s mulitmedia production on the Iraq war for National Geographic
PIERRE AND ALEXANDRA BOULAT ASSOCIATION
• Founded in memory of Pierre and Alexandra Boulat in 2007 the Association Pierre et Alexandra Boulat seeks to keep the spirit of father and daughter alive through making their work available to the public and creating an annual grant to a photographer and sponsoring the education of young photographers.