Peter Turnley is a renowned photojournalist, who has, for more
than four decades, created an enduring legacy of memorable images that
reveal the depth and pathos of our common human experience and history.
Turnley has photographed monumental moments of historic change and
revolution including the Gulf War, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, Chechnya, the
fall of the Berlin Wall, revolutions in Eastern Europe, Tiananmen
Square, the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of apartheid in South
Africa, and many world leaders including President Barack Obama.
In his new book “French Kiss – A Love Letter to Paris,” he reveals moments of poetry and beauty he witnessed as a street photographer during the past 40 years of documenting the city of love, which is his adopted home.
Q: Hi Peter, how did you get started with photography?
A: I was sixteen years old. I had a serious injury from playing high school football. While I was in the hospital for a while, my parents brought me a book with photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson. I don’t even know how they had the good sense to even know who he was. As I laid in the hospital and looked at this gentleman’s photos, I was blown away by the way in which his vision informed me that there was all this poetry and marvel in the moments of daily life that I was walking by every day without noticing. So, I bought a camera and, thanks to my injury, I had a lot of time after school. I began to drive down to the inner city of my hometown in Ft. Wayne, Indiana every night, and I discovered immediately that the camera offered me a way to speak. It became a passport and allowed me to go anywhere. My life really began to open up. I visited people’s homes, gospel churches, taverns, and pool halls, and I developed all the negatives myself in my parents’ basement. I’ll never forget, when I came up and showed a wet print to my family sitting around the kitchen table after dinner, and remembering the look in their eyes as I shared something that I had seen.