Turner personally printed 50 of his most loved images, with colorful names like "Lifesaver, USA" and "Hot Lips," for the recent retrospective, Pete Turner: Empowered by Color. The photographs were on view in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. at the renowned George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.
He began his career during the early days of color photography when color was used primarily for commercial work. "At that time, photographers didn't usually put color filters in front of their lenses just to alter the look of an image, so using color like that for fine art work was very rare," said Turner, whose photographs have graced hundreds of ads, magazines and record album covers.
His atypical style even caught the eye of director Steven Spielberg, who hired him as a special effects still photographer for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Turner's work is part of the permanent collections of world-class museums, including George Eastman House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the International Center of Photography in New York, Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
"I was told that if I could get the new color printer to work, I could run the color lab"
Unlike most photographers of his era, Turner began experimenting with color processes at an early age when color photography itself was still a novelty. After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology, he received on-the-job training making color prints at the Army Pictorial Center in Long Island City, N.Y. "I was told that if I could get the new color printer to work, I could run the color lab," he said. From then on, he was passionate about creating quality color prints. After an African odyssey commissioned by Airstream Trailers and National Geographic, his photography career took off, but he continued to focus creative energy into photographic printmaking.
He spent years of trial and error working with various color print processes and revered, obsolete technologies like dye transfer, which was discontinued more than 15 years ago.
"No matter how print technology advanced at the time, there were many difficulties, challenges and compromises to making an exceptional color print," said Turner. "Dye transfer was a complicated, expensive process that took a lot of my time. I had to ultimately outsource the work to a lab, which meant I had little control, and it could take weeks to get the color balance I wanted."
Four decades later, he finally found a printing system without any trade-offs in image quality, convenience and price. "The latest Epson print quality is an amazing breakthrough for photographers," he said. Not until the Epson Stylus® 3800 Pro ink jet printer, with its Epson UltraChrome K3™ inks and new photographic screening technology, was he able to bring out the richness, depth, and saturation he needed to display the bold color of his work.
Today, Turner's prints at the George Eastman House reveal pure colors "so vibrant you want to lick them right off the photograph," noted a fellow photographer. Turner attributes the exhibition's dazzling print quality to the 8-color pigment-based Epson UltraChrome K3™ ink technology, plus a breakthrough screening algorithm in the Epson Stylus Pro 3800, which yields the smoothest of tonal transitions and incredible detail from highlights to shadows.
"Since the George Eastman House's mission is to collect and preserve all forms of photography, the museum is delighted to display and collect these images produced with the latest print technology," said Anthony Bannon, director of the George Eastman House. "When I first walked into our Entrance Gallery to view Pete Turner's exhibition, the images were so remarkably sharp, clear and saturated that it was like looking into an aquarium. I've never seen color photography produced with this level of vibrancy."
Turner printed his 16-by-20-inch exhibition prints using the 17-inch wide Epson Stylus Pro 3800 on Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper. In addition to the image quality, Turner is equally impressed with how fast the printer produces the prints and how little space the printer takes up in his digital darkroom. Extreme color is consistent throughout the exhibition, from his earliest image, "Times Square" (1957), a time exposure of a traffic light at dawn after a heavy snowstorm, to his most recent, "Funicular" (2006), a simple yet elegant shot of railway tracks reaching up between stucco walls to an electric blue patch of sky.
"The Epson UltraChrome K3™ prints have a similar 'transparency' to them that I've never been able to get with any kind of print before,"
Epson print technology "brings forward" what Turner calls an impression of "liquidity," a water-like color quality that he used to see through a loupe over a light box or projected by a carousel projector when he worked with transparencies. "The Epson UltraChrome K3™ prints have a similar 'transparency' to them that I've never been able to get with any kind of print before," he said.
The effect can be seen in "Cheetah" (1970), in which a lustrous wild cat seems to fade in and out of focus as it moves through long green grass. "Sean Corcoran, the curator of the show, and I compared the Epson print to a previously made reproduction, and we couldn't believe the color, clarity and intensity of the new print," said Turner. Illuminating the exhibition with SoLux® full-spectrum lighting further enhanced the impact of Turner's artistry. "Full-spectrum lighting brings out all the color and detail that is in the original print. There were no worries about fading because we knew that the Epson pigment inks would hold up to the higher light levels," he said.
"One of the things I love about the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 is that it's here in my studio to use whenever I want to," he added. "It's easy to use, it's fast, and much more compact than other 17-inch models." Another key feature Turner noted is the printer's auto-sharing black ink technology, which automates the process of switching between Photo Black and Matte Black ink modes to optimize black ink density for various media types. At only $1,295, the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 is a remarkable printer offering affordability with no compromises in image quality.
Another reason that Turner uses Epson prints is that he has seen too many images fade over the last 50 years.* "I want to create photographs that will sell because someone loves my work and knows the prints they are collecting will last," he said.
When George Eastman House, the world's oldest photography museum and one of the world's oldest film archives, offered to be the repository of Turner's life's work, he wanted to leave a legacy that would not diminish. "It's a wonderful thing to have your work in a major photographic museum like George Eastman House, especially a leader in photograph conservation and film preservation," he said. "So, I've gifted my Epson prints to George Eastman House. Those are the prints that I'm having the museum hold for posterity because through independent testing that uses rigorous industry accepted practices, we know they will stand the test of time."
One of his most recognized photographs is "The Giraffe" (1964), portraying the silhouette of the animal galloping through a blood-red and purple landscape. "Using the Epson to print that image gave me an unprecedented sense of control over the whole process," said Turner. "I am the artist, and it's my decision to affect a different hue or saturation." Whether a studio is in a remote locale or the New York Photo District, the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 and its UltraChrome K3™ inks give creative professionals unparalleled and absolute control. Fearless to take chances and try new technology, Turner continues to champion the possibilities of color photography.
* Ink lightfastness rating based on accelerated testing of prints on specialty media, displayed indoors under glass. Actual print stability will vary according to media, printed image, display conditions, light intensity, humidity, and atmospheric conditions. Epson does not guarantee longevity of prints. For maximum print life, display all prints under plexi, glass or lamination or properly store them. Visit www.wilhelm-research.com for the latest information.