Seduced by Color
Open Shutter exhibits renowned photographer Pete Turner

Pete Turner's “Reflections” (Peggy Moffit), 1970.

Providing an added sense of sensuality and mystery, color is the distinguishing and most easily recognizable element of New York photographer Pete Turner's world-renowned work. His striking images are on display at The Open Shutter Gallery in an exhibit entitled, "Seduced by Color."

"Color is the single most graphic element he uses," says Sara Barry, of the Open Shutter. "It's all about the intensity. Turner has been on the cutting edge of color photography for four decades."

The show spans more than 40 years of Turner's work and represents the artist's evolution in subject matter from his early 1950s "African Journey" to "Americana" to his current "Color of Jazz" and Mexican series. The exhibit represents Turner's work at home in New York and abroad, in locales ranging from Baja and Careyes, Mexico, to Cairo and Capetown, Africa. The show also features a collection of Turner's international classics.

Although Turner's subjects have shifted over the years, he consistently relies upon his attraction to color and intensity, even in his earliest pieces that do not use filters or pigmentation. In an interview this week, Turner said he feels that the exhibit's title, "Seduced by Color" is an appropriate fit for his lifelong work and fascination with color.

"Ever since I got into color, I've been seduced by it," Turner said. "As a kid, I was into chemistry and all the chemicals involved; I liked to mix things together and I liked the colors of the chemicals, but I think that I really got into it through stamp collecting."

Turner explains that during World War II his father was a band leader for an orchestra at the Mount Royal Hotel in Montreal, Canada. As a young boy, Turner would play gin rummy with the band members for fun and spare change for stamp collecting.

"The stamps had all these wonderful colors, it was like an artist's palette," he said. "There were places that seemed interesting, which were the icons I remembered. I can still see the colors."

Pete Turner's “Pink Arch & Beach,” 2003.

Color obsession eventually led Turner to an ardent pursuit of photography. He got his start in the sixth grade working with a box camera and went on to roles in the high school newspaper and yearbook. Turner says that his photography pieces compensated for his below-average grades when he eventually applied to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Perhaps Turner's most controversial image, "The Giraffe," was exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967.

"Originally the image was a little overexposed for me," he said. "I wanted to create wonderful colors, to change the sky from red to magenta, but at that time if you used filters you'd be a heretic. I decided to basically break every rule I'd ever been taught in school, but my best teacher once said there are no rules; once you know them you should challenge them."

In spite of ample experience and schooling, Turner said he did not really find his own style until traveling to Heimaey, Iceland, in 1973 to photograph a volcanic eruption.

"It was the ultimate reality trip," he said. "I've never seen anything so real. It was a turning point for me because I'd seen reality up close and didn't really want to go the photojournalism route. After that I designed the photographs I made."

Photographer Pete Turner’s exhibit “Seduced by Color,” a collection of more than four decades of his cutting edge work, is on display at the Open sShutter Gallery through Sept. 22. The exhibit represents the New York photographer’s work in Mexico, Africa and home./Photo courtesy Pete Turner.

Since then, Turner has received more than 300 awards, including Professional Photographer of The Year 2000 from the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association. His work is held in permanent collections in major international museums and has been showcased in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the United States.

As Turner has transitioned from black and white to color prints to his present digital format, so has the content and intent of his work.

"I've seen a lot of things," says Turner. "The way I see them has changed and the tools we use have changed."

Turner has, however, noticed constant themes in his work.

"What a photographer does by nature relates to his subject matter and what interests him," he said. "I get hooked on shooting certain things. I guess there are the themes of color and perspective. I've also always loved geometry, which has been a constant theme for me."

Through this unique perspective, Turner transforms sand dunes into cliffs; photographs women on the beach upside down and turns them into flying birds; and finds grotesque appeal in photographing a fake eyeball in a bowl of peaches. In humoring and fooling the onlooker, he also finds some of the greatest joy in his work.

"I do have a sense of humor," Turner said. "I think it can be fun when you're not limited to the normal weight of things."

However, he added that he has yet to define his work or himself.

"I'm a photographer in search of a title," Turner concluded.







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