Aleksander Sliussarev began to photograph in 1958, when his father presented him with a range finder Yunost camera. His first acquaintance with photography was through the Soviet Photo magazine and the Human Race photography exhibition within the framework of the American Exhibition of 1959. Sliussarev failed to visit the exhibition at that time, avoiding «too strong an impression from a spectacular but bad exhibition», in his own words, but which, anyhow, made a serious impact on him: in 1962 and 1964 he took part in Our Youth exhibitions arranged by the Committee of Youth Organizations after its example. In the CYO young Sliussarev, still wearing a school uniform, met photographers who were already working in magazines — Akhlomov, Alyoshkin, Reznikov and Zhibin. There he joined the «formalist group» where «formalism» was defined as prevalence of form over literary content.

In 1979 A. A. Sliussarev participated in the Baltic photo festival Dzinterdzeme (Amber Land) after which his name became a symbol of the Moscow school of art photography. Sliussarev used to tell a story of how he, at an exhibition in Siauliai, introduced himself as «one of the founders of Moscow school of photography» and in the next city on the tour he was greeted as the «father of Russian photography». In photographic circles and among his fans he is addressed as San Sanych (short for Aleksander Aleksanderovitch), and he sometimes signs with the three initials SSS (San Sanych Sliussarev).