Peter Turner: 1947-2005

By Brittain, David | Afterimage, September-October 2005 | Go to article overview

Peter Turner: 1947-2005


Brittain, David, Afterimage


As a staunch advocate of photography, Peter Turner played many roles--curator, lecturer, critic, committee activist, lobbyist--but he may be best remembered as the longest-serving editor of Creative Camera (1969-78 and 1986-91).

The bare facts of Turner's life--which tragically ended on August 1--are these: born in 1947 near London, he was educated at the Guildford School of Art in Surrey between 1965 an 1968. Like most young photophiles, Turner encountered photography via the illustrated press. He began working at SLR magazine where he learned the journalist's trade and encountered Creative Camera. In 1969, following the departure of founding editor Bill Jay, Turner became assistant editor to Creative Camera's founder and publisher, Colin Osman. As an editor, Turner stamped his mark on the publication with inspired use of sequencing and layout. Despite their many differences, the pair complemented each other--Osman's passion for the vanished world of the pictorial press matched Turner's taste for the contemporary. Over the next nine years Creative Camera became a pillar of the support structure for photography in the United Kingdom and a byword for good taste. In 1978, at the height of his influence, Turner left the magazine and his "father figure" Osman to co-found the book publisher Travelling Light.

In the early 1980s, now established as the curator of "American Images: Photography 1945-1980" (exhibited at the Barbican Gallery in London in 1985), Turner joined an editorial panel at Creative Camera. Six years later, when Osman relinquished ownership of the title, Travelling Light was facing financial difficulties and Turner agreed to serve as editor again. In 1987 he published the book History of Photography. Spring 1990 saw Creative Camera relaunched as a bimonthly. In the summer of 1991 Turner left the title for good to make a new life in New Zealand with his partner Heather Forbes, a fine art photographer and publisher. Despite failing health, he kept in touch.

As assistant editor of Creative Camera, I got to know Turner during those final years in the loft of the Battersea Arts Centre, a shrine to a former era where keepsakes shared wall space with quotes by Walker Evans and Edward Weston. …

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