Alexander Mosher Esper – Still and Motion Pictures

Alexander is a visionary filmmaker who has segued into photography as a means to stay true to his artistic expression. Learn about his story below.

Say hello to Alexander:


Where are you from?  Where have you been?

I grew up in North Dakota, but I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past eight years.  Actually, I live in Compton right now.  Quite a place.

I’ve been all over the U.S., as well as Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

What’s your favorite place in the world and why?  Do you have a photo from that place?

That depends.  In terms of fun, the Dominican Republic and Colombia were great.  In terms of beauty, Costa Rica is wonderful.  In terms of Los Angeles, I love watching old movies at the New Beverly Cinema.  Sometimes though, it’s just good to go back home to North Dakota.  Not because it’s an awesome place (it’s pretty much just a field of grass), but because it holds a lot of memories, family, and childhood friends.  It’s simple.  Sometimes I miss simplicity.

Here’s a view from Costa Rica:


Tell us about your career.  How did you get into it?

North Dakota is a very boring state to grow up in.  Because of that, I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities like soccer and guitar playing.  However, the greatest impact on my childhood came from my love of movies.  Since I felt my own life lacked excitement and was unrewarding, I pretty much grew up living through the characters in cinema.  When I was 14, I began to make short films and from there it was clear that I wanted to spend my life writing and directing major motion pictures.  I moved to Southern California in 2008 and attended the film school at Cal State Long Beach.

Since graduating, my career has been a twisting road of jagged rocks and countless cliffs.  Hollywood and I do not have the same ideals.  I grew up with such a passion for the stories, characters, and craftsmanship of Hollywood movies from the 1960’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s.  However, for me personally, the quality of today’s American cinema has generally hit an all-time low in terms of anything intellectually meaningful.

As a result, although my heart is in motion pictures, I am doing more with still photography at the moment.  I don’t really see myself going after a long-term career in stills, but I do them because they’re fast and fun.

You do film and photography.  Can you tell us a bit about a recent or current film project you have going on?

One of my faults as a creative individual is that a lot of the time, I ponder ideas more than I act on them.  This is certainly true regarding my film projects.  However, I am currently interested in diving into a documentary on spiritual matters.  I recently finished reading the Bible from cover to cover and it seriously changed my whole worldview.  Although I feel closer to God than ever before, I know a lot of people feel lost when it comes to issues going beyond what we as humans perceive as being normal.

I truly believe that there is a spiritual battle taking place in this world.  Although it goes largely unseen, there are people encountering it first hand.  A lot of my conceptual photographs reflect this belief.  I would like to make a thorough documentary exploring that.

What types of photography do you do?  What’s your favorite and why?

When it comes to photography, I’m pretty much up for trying anything.  I do a lot of conceptual shoots, portraiture, landscapes, etc.  I don’t have a favorite.  I get tired of doing the same thing all the time, so I like to mix it up.

A tough one – can you share your favorite three photos that you’ve taken and tell us the story behind each one, and why they’re your favorite?

I’ll give you a few I’m most pleased with.

1. Classic cool – With this shoot, the model (Mike) and I were trying to capture the classic sense of cool depicted in film photography of Hollywood actors in the 1960’s through 1980’s.  We ended up with something a bit more interesting.  This photo, shot on Ilford film, has the timeless feel I wanted, but I think there is a raw realism behind it that makes it more than just “cool.”  In reality, Mike’s a boxer and his nature as a fighter seems to speak through the photograph in more ways than one.


2. The Hellbound Witch – The model (Lainie) and I were going for a primordial witch theme.  We shot this in probably twenty degree weather and were trying to work fast because our hands were freezing.  We ended up with this shot (again on Ilford film), which captures evil in a way that to me harkens back to the silent era of horror cinema.  Nosferatu comes to mind.


3. Beauty – This is the type of photo where I do very little besides releasing the shutter.  There was not a specific theme behind this shoot.  We just picked a location and photographed whatever we thought might be interesting in the moment.  The model (Kirra), the lighting, and the nature setting reflect the beauty of God’s creation and I have very little to do with that other than pushing the shutter button to capture it.  I particularly love the way the light fell on the scene, creating a contrast of lights and shadows, and illuminating Kirra’s golden blonde hair.


What kind of gear do you have?  

Digital: Canon 5D Mark II and GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition.

Film: Minolta X-700, Leica M3, Hasselblad 500c, and a bunch of other cameras.

Plus tripods, flashes, lenses, etc.

What’s your favorite piece of equipment and why?

Any film camera.  There are so many great film cameras that have been around for decades, yet they’re so well built that they are still just as usable as ever.  Many have unique and interesting designs that are fun to look at and play with.

What are some lighting tips you have?

I’m not a lighting or photography expert, so I don’t know any tips other than studying the work of cinematographers, photographers, and painters, and then practicing like crazy.

What tips do you have on post-processing?

No real tip other than watch YouTube videos and practice.  That’s how I learned.

What was your most memorable photography-related experience and why?

Each experience is memorable in different ways because of the people you meet.  I can’t think of one that sticks out at the moment though.

What are the top three tips you have for aspiring photographers?

Again, I am not a photography expert.  I have only been performing the role of photographer for one year, although I have always enjoyed the art of photography from a viewer’s perspective.

From my limited experience, photography is like anything else.  If you want to succeed, just get involved and never stop.

What’s been the most challenging part of photography, and how do you rise above those challenges?

The most challenging part for me has been what you might call the visibility aspect and frustration with social media.  I don’t really like social media and would rather have no part of it, but this is the age we live in.  I assisted a fashion photographer for a while and it was suggested that I begin an Instagram account.  So I did, and about a year later, I pretty much have no following whatsoever.  The problem is that a lot of the time people judge you not for your work, but for your number of followers.  In the past, I haven’t tried to get published anywhere or do anything to gain visibility, but I guess I’ll start that now with this interview.

What qualities do you think a good photographer must possess?

A good work ethic and respect for those you work with.

How about good models?

I like models that are collaborative, honest, and reliable.

Feel free to give anyone you’ve worked with kudos here.

You can see most of the models I’ve worked with tagged on my Model Mayhem or Instagram photos. They’ve all been great.

Who are your role models in the industry and why?

The filmmaker I find most exciting who is currently working is Nicholas Winding Refn.  I like his films because they are unconventional, deeply symbolic, and artistically captivating.  Other favorites are John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, John Hughes, etc.

Photographers I like include Szymon Brodziak, George Hurrell, Enrique Badulescu, Kesler Tran, etc.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’ll leave that up to God.

For anyone that wants to get in touch with Alexander, here’s some of his contact information:

FStop: Profile



Instagram: @___esper___ 

Alexander, thank you so much for sharing your personal and professional journey with us!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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