Peter Miller - Writer, photographer
Peter Miller, 89, longtime writer and photographer for SKI Magazine, died April 17 after hospitalization for pneumonia.
After serving as an Army Signal Corps photographer in Paris, Miller was a reporter for Life Magazine from 1959 to 1964. He then worked as a contributor to SKI Magazine until 1988. For 23 years he produced deeply researched features for the magazine, illustrated with his own spectacular photos. He followed the 1970 men's World Cup circuit to create his classic book The 30,000 Mile Ski Race, a psychological study of the winners and losers on the U.S. men's team of the era (see excerpt).
From his website:
Peter Miller’s reputation as a photographer and writer surged in 1990 after he self-published his first coffee table book, Vermont People. Thirteen publishers in New England turned down the book; Vermont Life executives told the author he would not sell over 2,000 books in ten years.
Worried he would lose his home, which he borrowed against to print the book, the author-photographer mailed 18 news releases to the press, categorizing himself as a David fighting Goliath sized publishers—at least in Vermont.
The result is that Vermont People’s first print run of 3,000 sold out in six weeks and the book went on to sell 15,000 copies before the author retired it. In 2013 Peter printed A Lifetime of Vermont People, 60 black and white portraits and profiles of Vermonters taken over 60 years. It is one of Vermont’s distinguished books, both in the writing, photography, and its importance in documenting our culture. The book won four gold medals; International Publisher’s Association named it the best non-fiction book in New England.
In the same time span Peter also published People of the Great Plains, Vermont Farm Women, The First Time I Saw Paris, Vermont Gathering Places, Nothing Hardly Ever Happens in Colbyville, Vermont. The author has sold nearly 50,000.
Peter was born in New York City the son of a Wall Street broker and Irish activists. His father became an alcoholic and died when Peter was a senior at Burr and Burton Academy. His mother had moved to Vermont, which at the time was inexpensive. He had some guns stolen and with the insurance check given him by his mother he bought a twin lens camera, which shaped his life.
When he was at the University of Toronto he met Yousuf Karsh and assisted him in 1954 as he photographed the famous Celebrities living in Europe—John Steinbeck, Albert Camus, Le Corbusier, Picasso, Pope Pius 23rd, Prince Philip, and many others.
After university he enlisted in the US Army and spent two and a half years living in Paris as a Signal Corps Photographer. The young photographer spent his free time photographing Parisian street scenes, which became an integral part of his Paris book published 40 years later.
Peter learned how to write and layout after working for three years as a reporter-writer for LIFE Magazine. He moved back to Vermont in the early 60’s and has lived there ever since. He has been honored by the Vermont Legislature and was elected Vermonter of the Year in 2006. He has a gallery in his home in Colbyville, Vermont, next door to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory.
One of the greats
One of my mentors at SKI Magazine, Peter let me tag along on some of his writing-shooting adventures. We toured Colorado putting together a special issue on deep powder, and we did another on steeps. I spent a lot of nights on the dog-smelling sofa in his rambling Vermont living room; he crashed a few times in my Manhattan apartment. He was a worldly, deeply perceptive guy who could fix your soul on Velox. I last talked to him about six months ago and wish it were more recent. I miss him.
Remembering Peter Miller
I was sad to read of the passing of Peter Miller. Truly...Peter was out there doing all this stuff, leading the way for the rest of us. Though I certainly wasn't close to Peter, I did meet him when I worked for John Fry at the NYC office of SKI back in '69. Then when he would come visit Taos (I'd say mostly in the '80s), we'd at times sit around and chat about the photo biz up in Jean Mayer's apartment above the Hotel St. Bernard. I guess I had good guys to inspire me on that path--Peter's multi-faceted approach to the world of photo-journalism (taking Peter's example, I also over the years wound up writing for POWDER, Modern Photography, New Mexico Magazine and others, in addition to the photos). We are all old now. Our mentors and role models have moved on. We can savor these great examples and memories and honor their contribution to our lives by still getting out there and skiing a bunch. Peter was such an unassuming, mellow guy. Just got the job done and found great pleasure in doing so. God Bless.