Some people dream in black and white. It's safe to say that Pete Turner dreams in color, and he's been sharing those dreams with the rest of us since he landed his first major assignment - a seven-month sojourn across Africa in 1959 for Airstream Trailers and National Geographic. Out of that spectacular first assignment grew a career that has spanned the worlds of advertising, editorial, stock and fine art photography.
Pete Turner by Doug Kuntz
Turner was 11 when he was introduced to photography. It was 1945 and his family had just moved from Montreal, Canada to Rochester, when he got his first camera and began to learn how to process black and white prints. Three years later, he was experimenting with color processing. So it was no surprise to anyone when he opted to attend Rochester Institute of Photography and study photography and art.
In 1956, he was drafted into the army, and was assigned to the second signal combat photography team in Long Island City, New York, where he operated a million-dollar color lab and began to experiment with the new type C color materials and processes.
After his discharge from the Army, he moved to New York City. Within months, he found himself on assignment in Africa, documenting a procession of Airstream Trailers on a trip from Capetown to Cairo. Horizon ran an eight-page photo essay on the Ndebele tribe, which he had photographed during his trek across the continent. At about the same time, Look published a photo essay of the Ringling Brothers' Circus that Turner had shot before leaving for Africa. Both essays garnered several awards, and Turner found himself suddenly known.
Soon he was shooting photo essays for other magazines, among them Esquire, Holiday, and Sports Illustrated, and jazz album covers for labels such as Verve. Shortly thereafter, he began to pursue advertising. His first major campaign, in 1962, was for ESSO. By the end of the decade he'd shot for Chrysler, Seagrams and AT&T. In the 30 years since, he's shot ad campaigns for United, American, KLM, and Portugal Airlines; for Audi and Chrysler; for BMW motorcycles; for Benson & Hedges and Vantage cigarettes; for Canadian Club and Dewars; for Eastman Kodak, Nikon and Polaroid, Bell Atlantic, Citibank, Kohler, and that's just a sampling.
Turner's photographs are in the permanent collection of major museums worldwide, and he has received over 300 awards from design groups and photography associations, including the 1981 Outstanding Achievement in Photography Award from ASMP and, just this year, the Professional Photographer of the Year Award from PMDA.
Today, Turner continues to shoot ad campaigns, photo essays and personal projects, from his home and studio in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. He has traveled to nearly every corner of the globe. But the country that keeps calling him back is the one he first visited, Africa. And this fall Graphis will be publishing Pete Turner African Journey, a celebration of his 40-year love affair with the continent.