An email today 19 September from Françoise Kirkland, just after waking up: “Pete Turner died this morning”. In the 1970s, there were three masters of American color photography: Art Kane, Jay Maisel and Pete Turner. It was not three months in PHOTO, where I had just entered, where one of the three was not published. A little later, Françoise Kirkland sent this beautiful portrait by her husband, photographer Douglas Kirkland, and a few lines from another photographer, Eric Meola, one of the children of these mythical characters!
The tribute of Eric Meola to Pete Turner:
Some people remember when they first fell in love. I remember when I first fell in love with a photograph. I worked harder for Pete Turner than I ever worked for myself. It was that simple, there was no questioning it. There was a group of us in the late 60s, 70s and 80s who were blessed to have him as a teacher and mentor, and as a friend.
“Don’t EVER say you work FOR me!” Those words ring in my ears. “If someone asks you, tell them you work WITH me!” It was always equal footing, and that bought him a fierce loyalty, and went a long way towards making careers and lifetimes of dreaming about far off places.
I swallow hard to this day thinking of that. I remember walking into John Durniak’s office at TIME, and Pete introducing me to him. A year later I had my first magazine cover, and was on my way to Haiti to shoot an assignment.
I watched Neil Armstrong with Pete and Reine at their house on Fire Island, as he stepped onto the moon.
I babysat for his son, Alex.
I had the greatest time in my life and would do it again and pay him if it could come true.
And then there was that time there was a knock on the studio door at Carnegie Hall. “Knock” would be too polite. Not quite a battering ram. A loud knock and then the words “We’re from the FBI.” As I opened the door I found myself staring at two of J. Edgar’s finest. You see, as a student at Syracuse University I had photographed an FBI agent while he photographed the notorious Jesuit priests, the Berrigan brothers, and they were there to question me. Not an auspicious beginning to a career in photography, I thought, and I wondered what Pete might be thinking as he shuffled Kodachrome slides up on his balcony office. It was the era of antiwar protests, of Vietnam, of Jimi Hendrix, and Woodstock.
Pete ambled downstairs, did his best Gary Cooper, and somehow that day passed. A month ago when we last spoke I reminded him of that day and it still brought a restrained chuckle as we reminisced about a golden era of photography.
He was an original, as different and unique a person as I have ever met. I met some of my best friends at the studio, and working there put my name on the map. More importantly, it gave me a sense of purpose, a work ethic, and a friendship that carried me through my life.
The tribute of Douglas Kirkland to PeteTurner :
Pete Turner was my “buddy” as he liked to call me!
Even though we were contemporary, he was a constant inspiration and my hero.
His uncompromising eye and rigorous sense of composition and color awed from early on and continues to. The “Pete Turner Look”, “Pete Turner Blue” , “Pete Turner Red” were part of our reality and perception.
He and his wife Reine and Francoise and I were so young together. What adventures and fun we shared. We remained the closest friends for over five decades.
We are sad and heartbroken beyond belief.