STORY BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTOS BY LISA WORTHY
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Peter Spurrier—perhaps the world’s best rowing photographer, and certainly the most prolific—died Tuesday, April 18, after suffering a heart attack. He was 77.
His work appeared in publications around the globe and in Rowing News beginning in 1996. His gorgeous images, informed by his passion for the sport, have adorned nearly every issue since, and over the years, he became not only a valued and indispensable colleague but also a dear friend.
Peter was born and grew up in England and began rowing and “taking snaps” as a teenager. A chance encounter in 1981 landed him in Mike Spracklen’s launch while he was coaching Steve Redgrave, and for the next 40-plus years much of the world’s views of rowing were seen through Peter’s lens.
The way Peter became associated with Rowing News—his gentle handling of our mistake—illustrates his kind and unassuming nature. When the sponsor of an Olympic rower we were featuring gave us a terrific photo, we ran it on the cover. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the sponsor’s photo to give; it was Peter’s.
Realizing we were young rowers finding our way in publishing, instead of a fee, he agreed to an assignment, and thus began our relationship, the longest-running with a contributor. He won awards, including the British Association of Rowing Journalists’ Journalist of the Year, and was quiet, humble, and generous with his skills. Respected and popular among his peers, Peter didn’t hesitate to help others develop their craft. The cover image of Aquil Abdullah’s 2002 biography A Perfect Balance was shot by Chris Milliman while he was at Rowing News using a perspective technique Peter had just taught him at the Henley Royal Regatta, where it was taken.
This year, Peter was planning a photo feature to celebrate the magazine’s 30th anniversary by showcasing some of his best pictures. Peter’s archive of rowing images (www.intersport-images.com), as well as his photos of rugby, cricket, and other sports, are his lasting legacy. He is survived by three adult children (two daughters and a son) and his partner Karon Phillips, whom he met through a fellow photographer in 2007 and had been with ever since.
At a later date, his ashes will be spread at Henley.