Street Focus 86: One Hour With Peter Turnley

My guest this week does not need an introduction. He has covered the world’s most important events for the past 30 years. His images have appeared on the covers of the most prestigious news magazines. Please enjoy an hour with Peter Turnley!

Peter Turnley

Peter Turnley

Peter Turnley is renowned for his photography of the realities of the human condition. His photographs have been featured on the cover of Newsweek forty-three times and are published frequently in many of the world’s most prestigious publications. He has worked in over ninety countries and has witnessed most major stories of international geopolitical and historic significance in the last forty years.

Turnley has photographed most of the world’s conflicts, including the Gulf War of 1991, the Balkans (Bosnia), Somalia, Rwanda, South Africa, Chechnya, Haiti, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, the 2003 war in Iraq. He has produced portraits and covered many of the modern world’s most influential people: Obama, Castro, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin, Mandela, Arafat, Schroeder, Ceausescu, Gaddafi, Chirac, Clinton, Reagan, Bush Sr., Lady Diana, and Pope Jean Paul II among others.

Since 1975 Turnley has also continually photographed the life of Paris, his adopted home. He was born in the U.S. but has lived more than half his life in Paris, where he worked as the assistant to the photographer Robert Doisneau in his early days in Paris in 1981.

Turnley has photographed extensively the life of Cuba since 1989 and has a new book out this fall, Cuba: A Grace of Spirit.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, the Sorbonne of Paris, and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris, Turnley has received honorary doctorate degrees from the New School of Social Research in New York, Ohio Wesleyan University and St. Francis College of Indiana. He received a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard for the academic year 2000–2001.

Among the many international awards Turnley has won are the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, numerous awards and citations from World Press Photo, and the University of Missouri’s Pictures of the Year competition.

Turnley lives in both New York and Paris and has published seven books: Beijing Spring, Moments of Revolution, In Times of War and Peace, Parisians, McClellan Street, French Kiss: A Love Letter to Paris, and Cuba: A Grace of Spirit. His books can be purchased directly from his website:

Peter’s website:

His latest books:
French Kiss: A Love Letter to Paris
Cuba: A Grace of Spirit

Other resources:


About The Author

Host, Street Focus

The day I picked up a camera I became a storyteller. I now live and breathe in pixels! After working as a commercial photographer for several years, I realized that my love for the craft could serve others. Sharing the passion is now where I focus all my energy through teaching international photo workshops, speaking at seminars, writing, blogging and now podcasting. I am also thrilled to be an X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Although I photograph everything and anything that moves me, my passion for mankind drives me to shoot street photography every day. I thrive on searching the story in a single frame. Find my Street Photograph: First Steps and Beyond on my website!

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  • Marksetgo

    Excellent episode, outstanding observations. Thanks Peter and Valerie.

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thank you for listening to Street Focus!

  • Sheila Bodine

    Many observations worth remembering.

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thanks Sheila!

  • Dennis Linden

    Absolutely excellent episode. The honor and integrity of Peter as a photographer is impressive. I have both the books mentioned, and yes, they are spectacular works. The images, especially from French Kiss move me like few others.

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thank you Dennis!

  • What an absolute treat to hear the views of Peter Turnley in his own words… and to understand where he comes from, both physically and philosophically. I have a feeling I will return to this podcast many times to refresh myself on the richness he has shared here. Thank you both for this gift.

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thanks Kim! Yes, I do hope to have Peter on the show again!

  • Jane Cosner

    I loved hearing Peter or should I say feeling his passion and respect for the art of photography and the moments/emotions he has captured. My darling husband gifted me a copy of his book French Kiss for Valentine’s Day and I often times sit with my afternoon espresso/chocolate treat and treasure the images of love, joy, laughter, music,…..Paris! I was also fortunate enough to see an incredible slideshow presentation that he gave here in S.F. at the Leica Gallery. Many of us in the audience were openly emotional upon hearing the stories and viewing the images. Thank you, Valerie, for connecting with Peter and sharing his perspective with your followers.

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thank you for listening, and for taking the time to share your thoughts Jane!

  • Neal Ritchie

    I’ve listened to every single of street focus podcast and got something from each and every episode. However, listening to the passion in Peters voice is truly inspirational! Keep up the great work Valerie!

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thank you for your support Neal!

  • Just caught up with this episode Valerie – it was a really good one, definitely one of the best. Thanks very much – both for this podcast but also for all the others that you bring us, much appreciated.
    PS When do we see you in London – don’t forget it’s just a quick train ride across from Paris!

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thanks! And Paris is also a quick ride from London! 🙂

      • Good point – and it’s such a lovely city as well, so I’ve no excuses!!

  • David Rudd

    I was behind on my listening of Street Focus due to a 13 day trip to Cuba. I started re-listening with episode #89, Peter Turnley and was profoundly struck by his thoughts of photographing people and his description and characterization of the beautiful spirited people of Cuba. I had the most delightful experiences meeting, interacting with, getting to know and photographing the beautifully spirited Cubans. Cuba is, without a doubt, a street photographer’s mecca!
    Thank you, so much, for providing such valuable information and education with you “Street Focus” podcasts. Looking forward to meeting you in Chicago at OOC this June.

    • Valerie Jardin

      Thank you David, Glad you enjoyed it. See you son as OOC!