Photographer Pete Paterson shares highlights of his career

February 10, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Catching up with photographer, Pete Paterson, we learned that he is “still working for In the Hills and I love doing it,” he said. “I’d like to go into the environment issues again. Since Bill Hunter [founder of Greenpeace] gave me a copy of his book Thermageddon – Countdown to 2030, I’ve been passionate about the environment and here I am yelling at warehouses – they should all have solar panels. It is beyond comprehension that the three billionaires are going into space when all that money could do so much more on this earth!”
Mr. Paterson’s wonderful career as a photographer began after he had hitch-hiked around Europe for four months with his wife.

“In 1968, I started at Yonge and Dundas at $100 a month with three other guys. Then I was lucky and photographed Robinson Davies. Those days, I called myself a ‘generalist.’ I met a friend by coincidence, who was an old acquaintance from university, Ramsey Derry. Ramsey asked me what I was doing and I said, ‘I’m a photographer.’ And he said, ‘Good. Just what we need’,” said Mr. Paterson.

“He worked for Macmillan Publishers.”

He photographed models for Sears: “We’d go to the Rockies for fashion shoots; Jamaica, go for a week and take photographs and brought them home without knowing what was on them and we never made a mistake.

He said, “I’m part of the change. I still have the light tables that I sorted film on. I’d go into a dark room and process the film. Now you look back and think how things work. There’s a little memory card [that] can hold 400 photos.” 

Mr. Paterson has photographed authors of “hundreds of books”, furniture, tools –everything for Sears catalogues. He worked for McCann [then also Erickson].

In due course, he told the Citizen, “I photographed Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler.”

His photography of late has been concentrated “Mostly in the Hills. I had the experience of the ceremony at the Order of Ontario with Bill Harshaw with the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I always thank Signe [Ball, founder, owner and Editor of In the Hills].”

Bill Harshaw wrote My Second Life, an autobiography of his life with Parkinson’s Disease, for which Mr. Paterson took the photo for the cover.

He likes to talk about his own revelation when he was photographing Tom Harper, author of the Pagan Christ, who describes the whole Bible as a myth. At that point, Pete Paterson declared himself a “born again atheist.” 

“What can I replace this with – Goodism,” describing Goodism as “caring and sharing. There is no dogma, no rules, no meeting , no control – it is just yourself deciding to help another person whenever you can. I say that Buddhism is caring and sharing.”

He continued to share his ideas, “I have thought about this – incremental progressive tax: nothing [taxes] below $25,000 to gradual and going minimum wage – should have to maximum wage. What I think about is the income system is the tax system is broken.

“The income tax how egregious it is. I did more research on income tax above $12,050, under which you don’t pay tax but above that you do.”

Taking the photos for the In the Hill magazine Local Heroes., “To make something wonderful. I’ve been doing it for 25 years.”

There was a lovely story about his involvement with Community Living Dufferin (CLD), when he went to photograph David Nairn and Sheryl Chandler.

“I had to go to this building [the CLD building, located just inside East Garafaxa constructed in partnership with Theatre Orangeville] with no idea about what CLD was. People were asking, Can I be in the photo?’

One of the people running things was Jody Jack and she asked me if I’d be part of Click Connect, a photography club for the members of CLD. We started talking about the photographs. It just blossomed – it was amazing for 10 years. It was all because I was assigned to that job in 2010 and it changed my life.”

Many of the conspiracy theories fascinate Pete Paterson: like former president, George H. W. Bush dining with members of the Bin Laden family the night before September 11, 2001 and theirs was the only airplane allowed to fly out of the United States that following day.

“I went with CLD to Creemore. People were asking, “What are you doing? The three most important words are please, thank you and hello. I thought that is just amazing; if we all say hello.”

Orangeville Public Library on Mill Street, invites people to come as Human Books, talking to visitors about their lives.

Said Mr. Paterson, “I was a Book too and my title was atheist. I realized if we would all say hello it would be wonderful.”

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