A Tribute to Pete Turner

Chris Armstrong Posted By Chris Armstrong on Sept. 20, 2017 / Comments


Photographer Pete Turner, a true icon who shot vibrant color imagery way ahead of his time died on September 18, 2017 at the age of 83 at his home in Long Island, New York.

To say that Pete Turner had a profound effect on my creative process would be an understatement — he's someone that I credit for introducing me to the concept of photography as art and what was possible with taking color to an entirely different place. As a teenager, he exposed me to an entirely different way of thinking about color, light, and surrealism. From what I've read, I wasn't alone, legendary photographer Eric Meola said the following:

“Before Pete, there was nothing modern about photography. The first time I saw one of his photographs, it hit me as though I had been struck by lightning, and with almost as much voltage.”

It's no wonder that PDN named him one of the 20 Most Influential Photographers — a truly deserved distinction. I'm fairly certain that Pete's name will always be included on that list no matter how many times it gets updated.

Sean Corcoran, former Assistant Curator of Photographs at George Eastman House beautifully summarizes Pete and his work here:

A pioneer of color photography, Pete Turner’s career began during the infancy of color photography, at a time when color was used almost exclusively for commercial purposes. Unlike many contemporaries, Turner embraced color, seizing opportunities that allowed him to master the process and to create the imagery he felt compelled to make. Unconcerned with the labels of “art” or “commercial,” he has deftly created a life’s work that blurs these boundaries.

Turner achieves his vision by combining the technical tools of photography with a perceptive eye for compositional color. Learning to manipulate hue and saturation early in his career, Turner created photographs that looked unlike anything previously seen, such as Giraffe. Over the years, he has continued to push the medium of photography by employing an impeccable sense of timing and a long-running fascination with geometry and surrealism.


Beyond Pete's beautiful color images that we're all familiar with, Pete created an amazing body of work for legendary Jazz muscians like John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Benny Carter and more...

Needless to say, Pete's work will always hold a special place in my heart and I know his work will continue to inspire photographers both young and old for many years to come.

Rest in Peace Pete.