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Saturday, 01 November 2014


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Good photos and a good story.
But there is much more. This is a depiction of the Holy Grail camera+lens combo, that nobody will ever have on sale. It is called The Mind of a Photographer APO ASPH Mark IV.
And THIS is the combo that makes the best pictures. Regards to Peter.

Lovely story. Not many people would have made that journey, on that night, at that time, in that area. Or have gotten such lovely, worthwhile results.

Humanistic photography at its finest.

Thanks for providing this space for this wonderful photographer.

Beautiful photographs and even more beautiful story!

Great photos for sure and a good overview to go with them ... but I have to wonder ... for all the other photos that you may have taken that day (or other days for that matter) ... did you tell all the characters in all of your compositions 'what a wonderful gift they had given you' and did you give them all your card to make sure that they could get a copy ? ... if not ... why not ?.

Just a thought. Chas.

These photographs are a nice addition to the subway legacy of Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson, and more recently, Thomas Roma. The NY Subway is (pardon the pun) a moving photographic studio, its subjects unposed and authentic.

I just re-read my comments as it was posted and I see that it comes across somewhat aggressively ... I do not mean it to be. My point is that the original text from Peter seems targeted (for unknown reasons) romanticized, impractical and disingenuous if one is going to say the same thing to everyone ... and why should any of our subjects deserve less than the other ?.

These are simply beautiful. I have been on the subway's very late at night on Halloween and my proclivity would be to show how comicly insane it is but you showed so much more respect and feeling for your subjects. Thanks for this gem.

the subways, love the photos. I shoot NYC, poorly. the only photo of note was walking as a stabbing occurred. I shot as I dialed 911. The indifference of the others present stunned me, the victim, a street person, seemed not worth the attention in the fashionable elite shopping area. Bill Van Ollefen: Ephemera &emdash;


additional note t the posted image, the trail behind the victim is fresh blood, I printed it once in color and viewers when they figured it out were horrified. There is a gritty reality to B&W though


Beautiful images, made even stronger by Turnley's interaction with his subjects.

A great post Peter, I shoot mainly street candid but I wish sometimes I had the confidence to do this! Thanks for sharing it. :)

What a beautiful gift to wake up to on a gloomy Sunday morning. Thanks, Peter.

This is a beautiful essay. Thank you, Peter!

I've lived in and near NYC for all of my 61 years, and it is the locus of my photography.

While it can be a cold and hard city, sometimes you find the man behind the curtain, full of kindness, soft emotion, and grace. And often you do not have to look too hard.

Nice job, Peter.

Very nice way to begin the day, seeing Peter Turnely's photographs. Nothing better than pictures of people. Thanks.

Thanks Peter. I appreciate the insights into how you work, especially how you approach people. Now, I must get some business cards. I've been procrastinating that for over a year.

Chas- I certainly can't speak for Peter, but it would seem that this particular couple actively participated in the making of that particular photo with their time and effort. It would also seem that he had one of those rare moments when he seemed to be absolutely certain that he had, in fact, nailed the photograph.

When you're shooting candids in such a fast paced environment as NYC, you can't stop to thank everyone- for shots that may, or may not come out to be winners. And if you did, would you feel comfortable sending them shots which you yourself thought were not very good?

Thanks Peter for a lovely story, it made me proud of humankind.

Beautiful images, like so many other that bear your name. I am so very hopeful that one of your images may soon be offered in the monthly print sale! I am a beginning photographer that discovered your work through this site and I am grateful indeed to have found it. You inspire me to pick up my camera. Thank you!

Intimate images. Thank you, I too ride public transportation.

Paul commented, "His apparent lack of interest in gear, mixed with his full concentration on the image are a healthy respite from the usual gear-driven chat on the web."

It ain't the machine. It's the emotion.

Peter’s gentility is refreshing, reassuring, so indicative of a good soul, thankful for the gifts bestowed on him.

For 20+ years I traveled the NYC subways by day and night, with only a handful of ugly or violent encounters – for NO reason other than the fact that I was one of the passengers available. And I thought myself pretty gutsy.

I confined my street-shooting to the streets - I always smiled, I always thanked my subjects, and was happy to engage in conversation. But (and this was the sixties and seventies) I wouldn’t have hand carried the cheapest camera in the subways, much less try to take a picture. The great subway pastime for the middle class was avoiding any eye contact with your fellow undergrounders – because you never knew how close they were to the edge of insanity.

Obviously Peter is considerate of his subjects, asks permission when feasible, engages in conversation by name (Coral Foxworth), but practices the street-shooters’ prerogative of “shoot first engage later” – if possible.

I believe there is much to admire here.


Great story and photos. Love the tonal range. I find the thick black borders distracting though.

@Stan B:

"Lovely story. Not many people would have made that journey, on that night, at that time, in that area."

And yet the photographs themselves provide evidence that plenty of people were making the "journey" in "that area," by which I presume you mean anywhere in the entire borough of the Bronx.

"His apparent lack of interest in gear" and "It ain't the machine. It's the emotion."

I do agree, but that Leica M Monochrom certainly helps him translate that emotion.

O. Hunter- Thanks for calling me on that!

What I reluctantly refrained from spelling out, was that- not many Whites, photographers or otherwise, would have voluntarily ventured there. Although I haven't lived in NYC for a good decade, I remember quite vividly how "White flight" would magically occur on certain lines upon reaching certain stops even during mid day! Regardless, I was merely applauding Mr. Turnley for not falling prey to the usual stereotypes of certain neighborhoods, and instead concentrating on the humanity inherent to us all.

Naturally, the inhabitants of Harlem and the Bronx call it... home.

So the 'A' train does exist... and I thought it was only part of Jazz mythology.
I'm glad it does exist, though, as long as it can provide material for such interesting history and pictures. Peter Turnley is one of those photographers who never ceases to grab my attention. He'll always have a special place in my own personal rank of great photographers. And he's also a great story teller - either by words or pictures.

Yes the monochrom certainly does help him translate the emotion. This camera can practically see in the dark. But that's it. I get the impression from following very closely his posts on Facebook and round here he never gets caught up in the gear gas syndromes or the typical Leica fetish and status symbol. It's always above all, a tool. In an ideal world Photography should have little to with cameras, lenses, etc.

I have to say I gave this kind of photography up. It made everyone too uncomfortable; me, the subjects, even the viewers. It made Walker Evans uncomfortable, he deliberately waited 20 years to publish his subway pictures. Street performers - loads of fun. People having quiet introspective moments... others can disagree but these days I say leave them alone.

I had the pleasure of taking a course in NY with Peter earlier this year. After a long career as a photojournalist, Peter is now an amateur in the right sense of the word. I saw him in action on the subway doing this type of photography, and even got past my British reserve to do the same myself – and got some pictures I am very pleased with. Out on my own in Harlem, I was able to repeat the lessons and engage the locals (to whom I did send pictures) and made more pictures which I regard as some of my best so far.

Peter also introduced me to the work of Martin Parr and Lee Friedlander. Another great bonus of the course.

If you get the chance, I recommend taking one of his courses. It will do much more for your photography than any further lenses could possibly do.

I thought to myself, Simply Wonderful. This morning I realized, I should say so.

Very nice series and story. Thanks for sharing this with us, Peter. I joined Peter on a trip to Cuba in April and can echo a few of the other comments here. Peter's far less concerned with the gear you have but encourages you to focus on telling a story. A workshop with Peter is well worth it if you're truly interested in pushing yourself to improve your eye or vision.

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