Peter N. Turnley (born June 22, 1955 in Fort Wayne, Indiana) is an American-born photojournalist known for documenting the human condition and current events. Over the past two decades, he has traveled to eighty-five countries and covered nearly every major news event of international significance. His photographs have been featured on the cover of Newsweek more than forty times. A renowned street photographer who's lived in and photographed Paris since 1978, Turnley is one of the preeminent photographers of the daily life in Paris of his generation.
Turnley and his twin brother, the photographer David C. Turnley, were the subjects of a biographical 60 Minutes piece Double Exposure, which aired during their exhibition, "In Times of War and Peace" at New York’s International Center of Photography in 1996.
Peter Turnley is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the Sorbonne of Paris, and the Institut d'études politiques of Paris, one of the few American students ever to do so. He has received honorary doctorates from the New School of Social Research in New York and University of St Francis (Indiana). Harvard University awarded him a Nieman Fellowship for 2000–2001.
Turnley first began photographing in 1972 in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. With his twin brother David, he spent a year photographing the life of the inner-city, working-class McClellan Street. This work was published in 2008 by Indiana University Press. In 1975, the Office of Economic Opportunity of the State of California hired Peter Turnley to produce a photographic documentary on poverty in California.
After an initial sojourn of eight months in Paris in 1975–76, Peter Turnley moved to Paris in 1978. He began working as a printer at the photography lab, Picto, that printed Henri Cartier-Bressons’ photographs. At the same time, he began photographing street scenes in Paris, which resulted in the book Parisians, published in 2001. He began working as the assistant to the photographer Robert Doisneau in 1981 and with Doisneau's introduction to Raymond Grosset, the director of the Rapho photo agency, Turnley became a member of Rapho, working alongside many of the photographers of the French school of humanistic photography such as Édouard Boubat, Robert Doisneau, Janine Niépce, Willy Ronis, Hans Sylvester, and Sabine Weiss. 'He became associated with the photo agency Black Star and was mentored by its director Howard Chapnick. As Paris-based contract photographer for Newsweek from 1984 to 2001, Turnley's photographs graced the cover of Newsweek 43 times. In 2003, he began producing eight page quarterly photo essays for Harper's Magazine.
Turnley has photographed world conflicts including the Gulf War, the Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, South Africa, Chechnya, Haiti, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq (2003). During the end of Cold War (1985–1991) Turnley photographed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev more than any other Western journalist. He witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, and Nelson Mandela walk out of prison after 27 years incarceration , and the ensuing end of apartheid in South Africa. Turnley was also present in New York City at “Ground Zero” on September 11, 2001, and in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He photographed the election and inauguration of President Barack Obama and produced a multimedia piece on this occasion for CNN.
In 2015, Turnley was the first American artist since the Cuban revolution to be given a major exposition at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana.
Turnley currently lives in New York and Paris, and is represented by Corbis, which holds an archive of more than 25,000 of Turnley's images.
Teaching and workshops
During the fall of 2001 he was a Teaching Fellow for Professor Robert Coles for his class “The Literature of Social Reflection” at Harvard, and he is a frequent lecturer and teacher at universities and on panels worldwide, including the Danish National School of Journalism, Parsons School of Design, Paris, the University of Hanover, Germany, The University of Michigan, The University of Iowa, and Indiana University. He was an “artist in residence” at the Residential College of the University of Michigan during the spring semester of 2008.
Turnley teaches street photography workshops around the world. In conjunction with the Maine Media Workshops, he teaches workshops on street photography and the photo-essay in Paris, Istanbul, Prague/Budapest, Seville, Rio de Janeiro, Calcutta, Provence, and Buenos Aires. He also runs and teaches workshops on street photography in New York City.
- The International Center for Photography (CP), New York, New York.
- Leica Gallery, New York, New York.
- Museum of Modern Art, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
- Agathe Gaillard Gallery, Paris, France.
- Pictura Gallery, Bloomington, Indiana.
- Museum of Modern Art, Verona, Italy.
- "The Content of Our Character." Weatherhead Gallery, University of St Francis, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2009.
- "Momentos de la Condición Humana." Museo de Bellas Artes, Habana, 2015.
Peter Turnley's photographs have won many international awards including the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, and numerous awards and citations from World Press Photo and Pictures of the Year competition of the University of Missouri.