Pete Turner: Road Song

Pete Turner

Born in Rochester, New York, in 1934, and lived in New York City. He passed away in 2017

Road Song, 1967

Chromogenic print

Gift of Ronald B. and Susan N. Milch, 2004


Road Song is a color photograph that depicts the long fence separating the road from the Kansas City airport. The fence is a dusky blue that disappears into the sky. At the horizon where the black road meets blue, there are red dots of taillights. Because Tuner waited for dusk to take the shot, the details of fence look hazy, almost like a paint stroke.

When Turner saw this road, he was in Kansas City shooting photographs for Life Books. People knew his work for its wide angles and color saturation. He used Tungsten wide-angle 20mm film to get the blue tones and dramatic view in this work, but he admittedly said that as the years went by he used less saturated films but did the color alterations digitally.

The image gained notary as the album cover for Wes Montgomery, a three-time grammy-winning jazz musician.

-Josey Bartlett


Pete Turner (born Donald Peter Turner)
American, Albany, NY. 1934-2017

Road Song (from the portfolio Selected Color Images), 1967
Chromogenic print
Gift of Ronald B. and Susan N. Milch, 2004.

Road Song captures the brief intermission between day and night, simultaneously implying a continuous time frame. In the distance we see the tail lights of a single vehicle, seemingly one with the expansive tar pavement. Turner’s fascination with saturated color and the surrealist movement is evident in this piece. After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Turner was drafted by the US Army. From there, he was stationed at the Army Pictorial Center (now Kaufman Astoria Studios) to run the color photography lab. This would launch his career working for magazines like National Geographic and Sports Illustrated. Many of Turner’s travels around the world, including an assignment traveling from Cape Town to Cairo, would later become the subjects of album covers for prominent 20th century jazz musicians, ranging from the likes of Antônio Carlos Jobim to John Coltrane. Road Song became the cover for Wes Montgomery’s album of the same title. Released in 1968, it would be Montgomery’s last recording before his death the same year.

-Writing and audio by Patricia Stachowicz, graduate student in the Arts Administration program at Baruch College