Peter Cunningham autobiography 1999:

Life is series of contradictions. I've lived in Greenwich Village for 25 years, yet I still root for the Boston Red Sox. I practice sitting on my zen cushion, yet I run around breathlessly trying to keep up with so many people and places. They call me a photographer, yet if I were to do a self-portrait, I wouldn't dream of including a camera.

So, what can I tell you about myself?

For 25 years I've made a living portraying the projected glory of famous personalities. Last year I photographed Elton John for Citibank, Shania Twain for Mercury, the Grammy awards for Sony, and the performers in Paul Simon's Broadway musical Capeman. VH-1 recently licenced many of my old pictures of Bruce Springsteen and Madonna, but I no longer actively solicit music and theater work.

The artistic medium which absorbs my passion is something I call

The idea of Blinders is that we humans, like horses, are fitted with blinders that keep us looking straight ahead, and discourage us from experiencing the entire wonderful world that is alive and available every moment.

Every month I venture two blocks south from my Greenwich Village loft to photograph the art hanging in the best galleries of Soho. With my partner, Tim Trompeter, I've created an award winning website we call ArtSeenSoho. If you want to see photographs of the art that the galleries are hanging right now, or you want to know something about the fashion, design, restaurants, or geography of of Soho, this is the place to go.

When Tim and I began this project four years ago, we would tell gallerists and shop owners that we were doing a website about their neighborhood and they would ask, "What's the web?".

Things change.

For three years I have been participating in a meditation retreat in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Needless to say, this has been a lifechanging experience; here you can see a personal essay that I wrote and photographed which was originally published in Tricycle Magazine. I am currently working on a book which collects statements from people who have attended the retreat; it is entitled "Beginning with a Broken Heart" and is due to be published in 2000.

This is part of my continuing committment to a group called The Zen Peacemaker Organization which is a contemporary American adaptation of traditional Japanese Zen practice. In addition to the traditional Zen practice of plunging into oneself on the meditation cushion, ZPO practices "plunging" oneself into extreme situations; the three core tenets of the practice are "Not Knowing", Bearing Witness", and "Healing". Another "plunge" I have written about is hitting the city streets for a week without money or address.

I have photographed Bernie Glassman, co-founder of the Zen Peacemaker Organization, all over the world for nearly 20 years.

The pot keeps getting stirred.....

Beauty has a way of affirming the presence of the person who sees it;
a moment when inside and outside are in perfect balance.

Beauty is everywhere we open our eyes, but I am particularly sensitive to it's natural manifestaitons on a Canadian island in the Bay of Fundy called Grand Manan. It is the host to some of the largest tides in the world and I call it the place of my heart; in fact, I just now learned from my mother and father that I was conceived on Grand Manan. My friends on the island are fishermen and housewives, children, teens, and old salts; my father is a meteorologist who collects and studies the chemical content of fog, my mother taught mathematics and raised me and my two brothers; born in 1919, they both turn eighty this year!

I am currently working on a book about the passing of the seasons on Grand Manan with aclaimed haiku poet Dennis Davidson. He is creating the haiku after contemplating my pictures.

November sunset-
an old man meets his shadow
standing in the door

And finally there is WordWise.

I began photographing words when I was frustrated with the usual visual opportunities while visiting Florida, but now I collect them with enthusiasm here in New York and wherever I travel, most notably in LA, San Francisco, Texas, Tokyo, London, Amsterdam, and Warsaw. I enjoy the process of creating combinations of the words for the cards; they echo emotions I have felt and that I can imagine others might want to express. I am working on a children's book and a book of poetry with the photographs of words, but the current commercial adventure is WordWise Cards. In 1998 Catch Publishing in Holland printed 108 combinations of two words as greeting cards; they are distributed all over the English speaking world and are also available for purchase here on line.

....or you can email a WordWise card:

The only time I have ever been on this side of a "publicity shot".

Peter Cunningham, NYC 1999
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