Photographer Peter J. Crowley has evoked a stunning sense of emotion and motion in his work that constantly reflects his self-image. Crowley’s goal is to create “visual words and verbal images.”
“All you ever photograph is light. The subject is merely a vehicle to transform the light into emotion,” he says. Crowley sees the importance within observing and creating what surrounds him. His understanding of negative space separates a snapshot from photographic art.
For an artist who has made it through the best and worst times of the past four decades, Crowley has maintained ambition, sincerity, and a positive outlook on his experiences that led him to his life in the Pacific Northwest. Currently residing in Olympia, Crowley is finding new ways to look through the lens of life, yet still has “colorful” memories and nostalgia of his time on the East Coast.
If he is not behind the camera you will likely find him enjoying being a grandfather to his four-year-old granddaughter, Inara, named after the character from Firefly, as she will tell you herself. Inara enjoys going to gallery shows for the exquisite food, dining out on the bay, playing with pterodactyls, and working on her sense of humor and intellect with her grandfather.
On an ordinary day in Olympia these two might stroll through Hands On Children’s Museum, get lost in the library at Orca Books, dance their way through Percival Landing and Tumwater Falls, visit GRuB and end on a sweet note of ice cream at Traditions Café. Creation through the eyes of a four-year-old is the only thing that matters when they are together.
Crowley’s foundation was laid in New England during the late 1960s. Composition was a living and breathing form of identity and became the relationship that took his work to the next level of existence. Crowley understands composition by creating art through the view finder. The images he shoots come to fruition through manual settings only and he refrains from cropping images. His mantra, “every image is a self-portrait,” means he emotionally puts himself into every photograph, making an everlasting bond between asking “why” and doing so much stronger.
After graduating high school in 1968, Crowley took his artistic background with him to further heights as a fine art major in college. His studies were split between fine art and anti-war demonstrations, initiating an instinctual desire and need to comment on the present times. In 1970 he assisted in making a film with friends for the first Earth Day and saw the world as a slide show, a series of still images. After this realization he purchased his first 35mm camera, and was accepted into Paier College of Art as a photography major.
At Paier, Crowley learned the technical aspects of black and white photography and adopted his mantra “every image is a self-portrait.” He quickly learned that without questions, there would never be any answers. During college he was offered a photography job at Stratford News. With the choice to pay to earn his degree or getting paid for real-world experience, Crowley chose experience in the field. At the Stratford News Crowley had a venue for his visual commentary.
Later in 1981, Peter became staff photographer at Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theater in the Afro-American Studies Department. His work at Brown culminated with his photographs being included in the permanent collection at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. The launch with Brown and Nation Museum of American History solidified a path on his creative journey and thus began his relationship with emotion and motion.
The highlights from Crowley’s life were quickly shattered with a pistol whipping in Providence, causing him to later move to Connecticut in hiding. What was supposed to be a night cap with friends, beers and billiards turned into an armed robbery resulting in terrorized customers and trips to the hospital. Two years later he returned to photo journalism at a small newspaper group, revived but hyper-aware. He then found his way back to the theater in 1987, becoming the staff photographer at the now Connecticut Repertory Theater at The University of Connecticut.
Within a few years, Crowley was working with seven different colleges as their theater photographer. He continued his journey with documentary photography and the revitalization of old mill towns, resulting in his first published book “All the Usual Subjects.”
Crowley has come from the heights of Woodstock to the depths of being assaulted. He has toughed it out through brutal times of bruises and blood, each year finding a different part of humanity to challenge and identify with.
The current stop on this journey is life in the Pacific Northwest, near his daughter and granddaughter, where he is working on a second book: A Life in Photographic Art. Olympia is a unique city that serves as a platform for many, with a genuine and reliable community that never settles for the standard. Where there is a source for creativity, Peter Crowley will pour himself into it and share it with the world. To view his portfolio visit his website, and be sure to check out his book promotion.