Fashion photographer David Turner dies at the age of 64

David Turner, a former WWD and Hearst Publications photographer, died on June 18 at the age of 64.

A man of multiple talents, whose demanding nature extended to other pursuits such as teaching, baking and trumpet playing, Turner was not inclined to do anything half-heartedly. During a seventeen-year career as a staff photographer at WWD that began in 1989, Turner’s specialty was portraits of high-profile designers such as Ralph Lauren and Karl Lagerfeld and celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. That tenure, which included assignments for W magazine, ended in 2006 with his departure to Hearst Magazines. There, Turner was a staff photographer and completed assignments for Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Town & Country and other titles.

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Designer Thierry Mugler poses for portraits in New York City on September 20, 1993.Designer Thierry Mugler poses for portraits in New York City on September 20, 1993.

Designer Thierry Mugler in New York City in 1993.

WWD’s former editor-in-chief Ed Nardoza said Wednesday, “I remember this unpretentious, crazy guy from the Midwest coming in for his interview for one of our regular photographer positions. Courtly and shy, but in possession of one of the most beautiful wallets I have ever seen. One shot I will never forget: a black and white of his grandmother’s elderly hands cupping a baby’s face. Extremely powerful, like his entire book. We hired him and his photos never disappointed. Creative, beautifully lit, emotional and never routine.”

Editor Anna Wintour answers questions during an interview.Editor Anna Wintour answers questions during an interview.

For the past six years, Turner has lived in Rochester, NY, where he was a visiting professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Christye Sisson, head of the institution’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, said that although Turner was an “incredibly generous teacher, no one would call him ‘easy’, but he inspired students to challenge their own perception of what they could do.” surpass.” Before RIT, he taught at the prestigious Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turner Falls, Massachusetts.

A representative from New Comer Cremations and Funerals confirmed his death. Turner’s location and cause of death were unknown. Media requests to his family went unanswered.

One of his sisters, Susan McConnell, wrote on the New Comer site: “We will always have questions, and even regrets, about David’s passing. I think we can all agree that we can continue to live in his honor by making this world a kinder place and helping others.”

Services will be held at his family’s convenience, according to the New Comer’s online post about Turner. In addition, RIT is planning a tribute to Turner after students return to campus next fall.

Designer Ralph Lauren and actress Audrey HepburnDesigner Ralph Lauren and actress Audrey Hepburn

Growing up in a remote Oklahoma town, Turner was introduced to the publishing industry as second nature: His father Fred owned and ran the local newspaper, where the younger Turner got his start as a Cub Scout photographer. By his own admission, Turner learned never to come back empty-handed and sought to convey the journalistic edict of ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ in a single image. Decades before he got into fashion photography and photographed designers like Lauren and fashion people like Anna Wintour, Turner was the local prison. He once recalled in an interview with Rochester magazine (585): ‘There was no zoom lens. These guys looked like they could eat me for lunch.

After his expected career plan to succeed his father at the newspaper failed, Turner decided to focus on photography and enrolled at Empire State College of the State University of New York and then at a photography school in Los Angeles. There he created his own special effects, sometimes using gels and smoke machines. In the 1980s, he bought a one-way ticket to New York City and put his skills to the test, first as an assistant to Ross Whitaker before becoming a studio manager. Turner then moved to Italy, where he worked as a freelancer in Milan for, among others, the fashion magazine Linea.

After the necessary hustle and bustle of freelancing subsided, Turner returned to the US and photographed advertisements for Ralph Lauren at a time when full-page newspaper images were a routine procedure. Agile and artistic when behind the camera, Turner sought to show his subjects’ true selves or “look who they are,” as he once explained.

During his years at WWD and W magazine, Turner photographed Calvin Klein, Thierry Mugler, Tommy Hilfiger and other major designers, as well as runway shows, rallies, celebrities and more. Former WWD photographer Thomas Iannaccone recalled Wednesday how Turner favored the light-dark tonal contrasts that Italians call “chiaroscuro,” a technique favored in paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. “He was inspired by art – the Enlightenment of the Renaissance [painters]the emotions – the light created the emotions, especially in his photographs of Ralph [Lauren] and a few others where it was dark on one side. What you didn’t see was important,” Iannaccone said.

Designer Karl LagerfeldDesigner Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

His music skills were also of the highest standard, with Turner occasionally bringing his trumpet into the WWD offices to play when there was a break, for his fellow photographers in their dressing room and studio. Turner also loved to talk about everything from Mozart to Louis Armstrong and Freddie Hubbard, Nardoza said. “When he left us for a big job at Hearst, it was a big loss for us, but a good move for David. He was truly a great guy who never lost his crazy charm, and conveyed his exceptional talent with disarming modesty.

As chatty and humorous as Turner was on the way to the shoot, he was precise, professional and business-like when it came time to shoot. When he joined WWD, Turner certainly influenced the other staff photographers with his arsenal of skills. “He brought a whole new mentality. Remember, he was a professional. He had worked in Italy and had a beautiful portfolio,” said Iannaccone. “We loved him. That’s really it: he will be missed.”

Former WWD reporter Eric Wilson recalled traveling to Miami for W in the early 2000s to photograph homes, art patrons and philanthropists. Wilson was used to Turner being “quick and discreet” when photographing designers and was surprised when the photographer spent hours setting up lighting for a single shot of the exterior of a South Beach mansion on an overcast day, ‘because he wanted it to really stand out. against the clouds.” Once everything was in order, the sun came out and Turner had to rearrange the entire setup. “He never complained (I did),” Wilson said. “At the end of the day we were both so burned we looked like lobsters. When we got back to New York, [W’s] Mary Merris joked that we had treated the business trip as a vacation.

Wilson added, “He was so versatile and such a gentleman to all the designers. He never lost focus, even when Donna Karan changed her top for us during showroom visits.”

Turner would like to be remembered as someone who always pursued the best, he said. “He was a respected artist in every field he touched. When he was a teacher, he was the best teacher. When he played the trumpet, he played it with soul. When he took pictures, he did it all the way. When he cooked, he was passionate. There were no shortcuts,” Iannaccone said. “We went to his house for dinner when he got married [his ex-wife] Teril, and he wasn’t there. He had made dessert. But he couldn’t find the sprinkles to match the frosting, so he ran around town looking for the sprinkles. That’s the kind of man he was,” Iannaccone said with a laugh.

But Turner’s nose for news never disappeared. When a high-maintenance, Grammy-winning musician arrived hours late for an assignment, he told an increasingly impatient colleague, “We’re just waiting for the story to get long.” Pragmatic and sometimes a little pernicious, Turner delivered so unsolicited but in need of advice that reporters, like photographers, were never allowed to walk with their hands in their pockets to avoid the risk of broken arms and hands.

While visiting South Carolina with businessman Richard Jenrette, Turner was reportedly asked to take a portrait of his host and a guest, who turned out to be then-Prince Charles, who was in town to discuss classical architecture . “To do a portrait of Prince Charles, you have to sign a packet of papers,” Turner told (585) Magazine, describing the royal family as friendly and warm, with a two-handed handshake and “older brother” -energy.

He was also all in when teaching students in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at RIT’s College of Art and Design, often using his personal time to put in extra hours. In collaboration with RIT’s libraries, Turner hosted “Magazine Mondays,” where he would take students through the pages and discuss the work, layout, composition and trends. Sisson said: “It was a real masterclass in not only picking his brain about the medium, but also a form of critiquing the content with little stress. It was super popular and he even baked cakes and cookies for these informal get-togethers that he hosted in our airport lounge that were super popular.”

Turner was always keen to share his knowledge, whether it was insights into photography or a Saturday tutorial on how to perfect the croissant by laminating the butter into the dough. “That’s just who he was,” Sisson said, “He just wanted to help people and share what he knew, without ego, which was unusual.”

Predeceased by his parents, Turner is survived by his sister McConnell and another sister, Terri Bragg. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Humane Society of Greater Rochester’s Lollypop Farm.

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