By Jim Colton
A young man walks into the brasserie at 55 Quai de Bourbon on Isle Saint-Louis in Paris, in the mid 1970s. He is confident. Fresh from Fort Wayne, Indiana, he's been practicing his French and is now prepared to ply his newly learned linguistic acumen. He has been repeating to himself, "Je voudrais une bière...Je voudrais une bière...Je voudrais une bière." (I'd like a beer.) Ambling up to the bar, his eyes meet with the bartender and he states, "Je m'appelle une bière!" (My name is beer!)
Without blinking an eye, the grinning bartender responds...in perfect English, "Hello, Mr. Beer, what would you like to drink?" Thus began Peter Turnley's love affair not only with the French culture, but also with La Brasserie de l'Isle Saint-Louis.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Peter for more than 30 years. We worked together at Newsweek magazine and we covered some amazing stories during some equally amazing years. He never failed to produce outstanding work while on assignment. Which is quite a statement considering all the stories he’s covered. But trust me, he's that good!
His travels have taken him to more than 90 countries covering everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the fall of the twin towers on 9/11. Throw in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Middle East conflict, Chechnya, Rwanda and others and you get the picture. He’s been a busy guy! Turnley has photographed Barack Obama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat,Princess Diana and Pope Jean Paul II, just to name a few. And along the way, he's had 43 covers of Newsweek.
He also has managed to change with the times and remain proactive and vital in an ever-morphing market. He has a keen understanding of the business of photography and adapted while never compromising his true love for the “found moment.” His philosophy is simple, “everywhere around the world, the things that people have in common with one another are greater than the things that make them different.”
So with his newest book coming out, French Kiss - A Love Letter to Paris, I thought this would be a perfect time to get an inside look at this soft spoken but hard driving -- American in Paris.