Five Fab Fotos with David Peterson, A Visual Conversation with Imaginative Professionals

Meet David Peterson, Freelance Photographer and Two-Time Winner of the Pulitzer Prize:
I have been a photojournalist for over 33 years, beginning my career at the Topeka Capital-Journal. For 30 years I was a staff photographer and special projects photographer for the Des Moines Register. I recently left the newspaper business to freelance.While at the Register I won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1987 for Feature Photography for a photo essay on Iowa’s Farm Crisis. The work was done with the help of a Nikon/NPPA sabbatical. I shared in another Pulitzer in 1991 for Community Service for a story about a rape victim. Seven of my photographs were included in the entry. Other accolades while at the Register include two stints as judge for Pictures of the Year, White House News Photographers contest judge, three times Region 5 Photographer of the Year, and numerous other local, regional and national awards.I have worked on several book projects, including Baseball in America, A Day in the Life of Ireland, 24 Hours in Cyberspace, The Power to Heal, One Digital Day, America 24/7 and America at Home. I am currently publishing multi-media projects for Drake University and other local clients in the Des Moines area. I am also working on a sports book about the Drake Relays to coincide with that event’s 100 year anniversary.
Photo by Ansel Adams

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.  Photo by Ansel Adams

1. Ansel Adams – As a neophyte photographer, I wandered into a small gallery in Kansas City in 1972 and discovered the magic of photography through the eyes and genius of Ansel Adams, who had a series of his most famous images on display.  As I stared at the images in front of me, I wanted to walk inside of the framed photos and discover the secrets that Adams had learned over the years, but knew it wasn’t quite that easy.  To that end, I bought all of his books that unlocked some of the technical aspects of his famous “zone system”, and began to understand how important this discipline was to the creative process.   As a young photographer, this gave me a wonderful base from which to begin my own photographic journey.  Adams remains one of my early in inspirations.

Photo by W. Eugene Smith

2. On the opposite end of the photographic spectrum was W. Eugene Smith, who brought the art of photographic story-telling to another level.  Smith’s message-driven photography, told through the heart of a saint and the eye of an artist, guided me to the wonderful profession of photojournalism.  Smith’s seven photographic essays, which appeared in the pages of LIFE magazine, were the benchmark for newspaper and magazine photographers world-wide.

Photo by Brian Lanker

3. Brian Lanker preceded my days at the Topeka Capital Journal and was a photographer who stood out on a staff of great photographers.  Lanker, along with Smith, changed how I looked at photos.  Much like Smith, Lanker combined a minimalist eye with content-driven visuals, always able to communicate in a deep, meaningful way.   His images were nuanced but powerful, hammering home the themes and messages that he intended.  Lanker continued to be a force in the photojournalism world after leaving newspaper work with his stunning book “I Dream a World”, which featured a series of portraits along with interviews of the most influential black women in America.

2014© Copyright Rich Clarkson — Clarkson Creative Read more about this meeting here.

4. Rich Clarkson – Rich was my first mentor, and taught me much about sports photography – a specialty of his which brought him many Sports Illustrated covers.  I was Rich’s “grip” on a two week trip in 1973 when we covered a series of track meets for Sports Illustrated.  Rich instilled in me the importance of doing things the right way, and was a stickler for detail.  Rich set a high standard for sports photography at the Topeka Capital Journal where he was the Director of Photography and my first boss.

Pears in a windowsill, National Hotel, Moscow From the Sam Abell book ”The Life of a Photograph”/courtesy Sam Abell  Read more about this image here.

5. Sam Abel – Of all the photographers who have graced the pages of National Geographic Magazine, Sam Abel is my favorite.  I had the privilege of judging the White House News Photographers contest with Sam one year, and got to know the man behind all of his wonderful images.  Sam is the rare photographer who can provide intellectual context to his work.  Listening to Sam talk about photos opens up a new door of understanding.   His style is simple, using mostly natural light for his color photography.

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