Interview With Bryan Peterson

Bryan Peterson has been a successful commercial photographer for over 35 years. Within the photographic community, he is best known as the author and photographer of nine best-selling books and for his willingness to share his knowledge with other photographers

What were your earliest experiences with a camera and photography?

In 1970, at age 18, I was doing pen and ink drawings with exacting detail of the natural landscape – trees and barns, mountains, the beach, waterfalls, etc., and selling them at local art fairs. Because I was often frustrated by the time involved in making these sketches, sometimes several days at a time, my oldest brother Bill, who was a serious amateur photographer, suggested I borrow his camera and shoot pictures of the landscapes that I wanted to sketch, develop these pictures in his own home darkroom and then sketch from the black and white prints. I took his advice and, after developing the very first roll, I was completely won over to photography and the immediacy of the image. I haven’t sketched a day since.

I owned a twin-lens DeJur camera and used a Westin hand-held light meter (purchased at a garage sale) for about all of three months, and along with this I also used my brother’s Nikon Photomic F and his three lenses; the 50mm f/1.8, the 28mmm f/3.5 and the 200mm f/4.

I never went to school to learn photography, but I did go to the school of hard knocks, which is another way of saying that I shot a ton of film, spent countless hours at the library, and burned through my share of pocket-sized notepads. I would write down every aperture, every shutter speed and every lens choice, even the location. My brother Bill was a big help too, if only in his enthusiasm for my newfound passion.

My early excitement did create a mountain of debt for me. But, eventually and fortunately things had turned around by 1979. Not only does photography now pay the bills, it has also allowed me a means of personal expression. I can’t tell you how many times I find myself ...

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