I had a chance to catch up with Peter before he got absolutely busy with Fashion Week, to learn more about his career and fordography.
You’ve had a varied career as a diplomat and as a photographer. What has been your favourite part of each job?
That’s a very good question because so many of my experiences have only been possible through the ‘day job’ e.g. working in British Embassies around the world. In 1998, when I worked in the Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, I also freelanced for the Associated Press covering Champions League soccer. I support Manchester United, so working for AP when they played Dynamo Kiev, in Kiev, was a dream come true. Also, going to Manchester to shoot the return fixture was a day to remember.
But, the most moving experience and one that I’ll treasure forever was when through a contact at AP, another photographer and I spent a day at Chernobyl, photographing around the reactor site and in a small village called Pripyat where most of the nuclear power plant workers had lived. A very moving and sobering experience. We had free reign over where we went inside the exclusion area. When I was in Pripyat's town square, I noticed the obligatory Lenin statue had red paint around it’s nose. I was told that one of the first signs of radiation sickness was a bleeding nose.
For the last ten years in the UK, freelancing as a sports photographer for Action Images (Reuters) and AMA Photo shooting Premier League, and Football League soccer and rugby. Hard to beat getting paid to photograph soccer!
As a Diplomat my favourite part has to be the travel; I’ve lived in eight, very different countries in 26 years, met some incredible people and done some amazing things.
Very interesting, and chilling...the part about radiation sickness. Though you mentioned a link between your career as a diplomat and that of a photographer, have you ever had the worlds of diplomacy and photography overtly overlap?
My last 18 months in the Foreign office was working as their chief photographer, in charge of a section making video and stills of the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and events. It makes me smile that after 25 years in the job, my photographic career finally overlapped!
One of my last jobs was to photograph our Foreign Secretary meeting the Canadian Foreign Minister. My application to come to Canada was taking a long time, so the thought did occur to ask them to speed it up!
Ha, Ha! You should have. Tell us, how did you get interested in fashion photography?
I would have to say Kiev. As a single man with a couple of cameras and some studio lights I had a ball. I met a few designers we often collaborated on shoots; I provided the photographic expertise, they brought the clothes, and the models did it for pictures. True communism!
What is your opinion on the difference between a fashion inspired creative and say journalistic photography?
You are full of good questions! In my opinion, fashion inspired creative imagery is thought-through, planned, discussed, and honed. It’s a collaboration of like minded people and totally benefits from this.
Journalistic photography above all should tell a story. For me, it is like being in a bubble with only you and your camera gear. It’s free flowing, happening in front of you. It tests your technique and creativity under pressure. You are on your own creating a beginning, middle and perhaps an end.
Do you have a personal preference?
No, both are so different in the way you approach them and are entirely separate, that I get pleasure from both. Would I like to choose between the two? No!
In your short time in Montreal, you have already done some fashion shoots in here. Can you elaborate on these?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work for both the Suburban and TC Media covering the last two Fashion Weeks in Montreal. Loved every minute of it and will do again, this time for MontrealFashionBizvie.
I had started a personal project in the UK just before leaving, that I finished here in Montreal. I like to shoot pictures that tell a story. With this in mind, I shot a lot of backgrounds in the UK of graveyards and cemeteries. One in particular, is an amazing place called Kensal Green. Bigger than Highgate, the more well known London cemetery.
The idea was to shoot a bride in her wedding dress with flowers against a green screen and montage her into the graveyard background. Her story is that she died on her wedding day and walks amongst the gravestones carrying flowers.
I saw those images, very creative and visually stunning. Since you have been in 26 countries, Peter, what do you think about Montreal and its fashion scene?
My wife has told me a lot about the fashion industry here in Montreal. She is designer herself, having qualified from LaSalle College. We met in Shanghai, China. The fashion scene here reminds me of the early years of the scene in Kiev, Ukraine; vibrant, manic with a vision of its own. Keep doing your own thing Montreal!
Are you used to our winters yet?
If I had a Looney every time someone asked me that….Kiev was the coldest city I’ve lived in before Montreal, regularly down to -16 in the winter, but when we go below that here, I am running for the indoors!
Before we wrap up, what do you look forward to doing with Montreal Fashion Designers after your busy schedule at the Montreal Fashion Week?
I would like to collaborate with an up and coming designer to shoot a collection that also tells a story. If I was looking at examples, I would say take a look at the work of Ben Kanarek. With this in mind, I am happy to offer my time and expertise to realize this.
Thanks Peter! We look forward to your coverage both on this magazine as well as on our facebook page.
Professional Fashion and Event Photography in Montreal
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Shilpa has over 20 years of experience in the Fashion Industry. She has been involved in various areas of the fashion business like Imports, Manufacturing, Buying and Sales.
She brings her love for fashion and the written word to her role as the editor of this online publication. Also, her fondness for connecting with people and her fashion biz savvy are invaluable to the buying team at the Exclusive from Montreal's Finest store.
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