Peter’s major teachers were two: he learned to remain a passionate amateur from photographer Adger Cowans who taught him to perceive objects in the world not by their given names but as refractors of light, malleable ingredients to be tumbled in the camera with personal feelings, world history and dreamscape mythologies.
Peter also learned from Henri Cartier-Bresson who he was privileged to assist in 1975. The two traveled every day for a month in New Jersey to document what HCB considered the prototypical American state. “My job was to talk to everyone so Henri could concentrate on seeing, when he wasn’t shooting my job was to listen to Henri’s extraodinary stories and discourses on life.” The New York Times gave us it’s lead opinion space on the day PBS aired the show.
Peter’s first paid job as a photographer was in 1973, when, for $25 he made Bruce Springsteen’s first pictures at Columbia Records and later did the same for Madonna. Peter learned to be a professional photographer creating images for famous performers in music and theater, he did this for 15 years (see portfolio) until the birth of music video made the field less inviting for independent individuals.
In 1980, Peter began studies with Bernie Glassman at the Zen Community of New York. His first public exhibition, “THIS IS IT? was held in the cafe sponsored by ZCNY; that little cafe evolved into The Greyston Bakery famous for cakes and cookies and for revivifying people with difficult histories. Peter’s travels and friendships among Zen practitioners and teachers in Japan, Europe, The Middle East, and The United States have been a great blessing and influence on his life and work. His trip to Japan with Bernie and Peter Matthiessen to visit the ancestors of Bernie’s teacher, Maezumi Roshi, resulted in the publicaton of “Nine-Headed Dragon River”; Peter has helped document the migration of Zen Buddhist practice from Japan to the West. After Maezumi Roshi’s death in 1995 the practice, while retaining it’s traditional form in many places, also evolved into new American/European forms. Bernie Glassman took his students into the streets or to sit meditation in Auschwitz-Birkenau and has now created The Peacemaker Community; Genpo Roshi started his Big Mind form of teaching, and throughout the West; many of the best teachers of the next generation are women, a development that would have been inconceivable in Japan.
In about 1980 cable tv was being launched and I was asked by an ad agency to create a series of 20 posters of people (my friends) which were displayed on the NYC subways in all 5 boroughs. I took the opportunity to take make a second more personal portrait of my models posed next to the purposeful commercial image on the postere. This series became the Black&White portion of Peter’s first major exhibition in 1982 at Harkness House curated by Liz Thompson and Kathy DeShaw.
The other half of this 1982 exhibition framed color prints in combinations, and thus began the long evolution of the theatrically-scaled triptych medium Peter calls “StillFilm”
In 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, Peter, based in New York City,began creating a Still Film he calls BLINDERS. He wondered what would replace the authoritarian structures that had ruled in the East, what systems are in place in the West that keep people well behaved and going to work day after day.