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Peter Turnley

Peter Turnley, a 2001 Nieman Fellow, graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in French Literature, the Sorbonne of Paris, and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris, where he received a graduate degree in International Relations. He has also received honorary doctorates from the New School of Social Research in New York and Saint Francis College in Indiana.

Turnley was a contract photographer for Newsweek from 1984 to 2001; his photos have been on Newsweek’s cover more than 40 times. In addition, his work is often in international magazines such as Stern, Paris Match, Harper’s, Geo, Life, National Geographic, the London Sunday Times, VSD, le Figaro, Le Monde, and Doubletake. It is also frequently seen on the highly reputed blog site, The Online Photographer (TOP).

He has covered nearly every major news event of international significance in the past 20 years, including conflicts in the Balkans (Bosnia), Somalia, Rwanda, South Africa, Chechnya, Haiti, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq (2003), the Gulf War (1991), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turnley has maintained an on-going commitment to document the plight of the major refugee populations of the world. He has been a witness to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, the end of communism in the Soviet Union, the regimes of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin; Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years, and the end of apartheid in South Africa. He was at “Ground Zero” in New York the night of September 11, 2001, in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 hurricane.

Political, cultural, and religious leaders who influenced the course of world affairs and culture in the past two decades have been the subjects of portraits by Turnley. These include Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana Spencer, Pope John-Paul II, Yassir Arafat, Gerhard Schröder, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin, Fidel Castro, Francois Mitterand, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Quadaffi, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Sr., Ronald Reagan, Obama, and Mubarak, to name a few.

Turnley has conceived each step of his photographic career as part of a larger whole; an on-going photographic expression of the key moments of history and a humanistic view of the “Family of Man”. His photographs have been published the world-over and have won international awards including the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, numerous awards and citations from World Press Photo, and the Pictures of the Year competition of the University of Missouri.

Born in 1955, Turnley has traveled to more than 85 countries and made images that represent a timely and lasting vision of life in these venues. At the same time, he has continually photographed, in black and white, the life of Paris, his adopted home. The often tender, humoristic and sensual images offer a distinct balance to the stark challenges of his world of photojournalism.

Turnley worked as the assistant to the famous French photographer Robert Doisneau in his early days in Paris in the late 1970’s. Encounters and friendships with such great photographers as Edouard Boubat, Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, and Josef Koudelka, in Paris further influenced his vision. He has been inspired by a multitude of other photographers, both contemporary and predecessors. Among them is his twin brother David, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer.

He is grateful for support he has received through the years from the people of the photo agencies Rapho, Blackstar, and Corbis, and particularly grateful to have been mentored by the great photo agency director, Howard Chapnick of Blackstar.

Turnley has published five books: Beijing Spring, Moments of Revolution, In Times of War and Peace, Parisians, and McClellan Street. His photographs have been included in scores of other publications including the “Day in the Life” books from Africa, America, Soviet Union, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Hollywood. Turnley also contributed to the books, A Passage to Vietnam, and A Day in the Life of the US Armed Forces. His work also appears in Paris des Photographes, and The Art and Spirit of Paris.

His photographs have been exhibited worldwide, and he has had solo exhibitions at the Agathe Gaillard Galerie in Paris (Parisians), and the Leica Gallery of New York (Peter Turnley In Black and White) at the Benham Gallery of Seattle. Collector prints are also available for purchase.

Turnley teaches many one week workshops on street photography worldwide in places like Paris, Rio, Buenos Aires, Seville, Venice, Prague, and New York. Information about his workshops can be found here.  

During the fall of 2001 he was a Teaching Fellow with Professor Robert Coles for his class “The Literature of Social Reflection” at Harvard University. Turnley’s corporate and commercial clients have included The Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, Nike, and NYU Langone Medical Cente. He presently lives in both New York and Paris and travels worldwide for editorial, commercial, and corporate assignments. His life-long photographic archive of more than 25,000 images, and his most recent and on-going work is represented by Corbis and can be found on-line at Corbis.com.



Art and Life
SHOWCASE | July 08, 2012
A photographer, in Turkey, takes a moment for reflection.

Getting pictures for history in Tahrir Square
SHOWCASE | February 16, 2011
Photographer Peter Turnley, a 2001 Nieman Fellow, has covered many of the great world events of the past 30 years. Here is how he came to be in Cairo on Feb. 11th, along with more than 40 pictures he took that will tell the story of that day for a long time.

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