Gerry Deiter
Gerry Deiter

From Brooklyn To Telegraph Cove: A Brief Biography Of Gerry Deiter 1934 - 2005, Photojournalist New York/Montreal/British Columbia's West Coast

"Out of a photographic career spanning 50 years, these 25 images I shot over a period of eight days in 1969 have turned out to be my legacy to the world". This is a reference to the collection of 25 photographs culled from hundreds of negatives, slides and transparencies he took at John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In For Peace, May 26 to June 2, 1969 in Montreal.

Early Years In New York


1934: Gerry Deiter was born of Jewish parents in Brooklyn, New York. He always carried his camera with him as a youth, viewing life in the city through the lens. After being posted for a brief time in Europe carrying out his military duties as a young man, he returned to New York with a much wider view of the world and a taste for adventure.

1956: He dug himself into the scene in Greenwich Village, apprenticing with one of the legendary fashion photographers, Francesco Scavullo. As a sideline, he further honed his skills by focusing on recording the burgeoning counter culture arts and music scene that made the TriBeCa enclave a haven for astonishingly creative people. His favourite watering hole The Corner Bistro is still a bohemian haven in Greenwich Village.

1960s: It was there he met Yoko Ono for the first time while shooting a show by the Fluxus Group. Ever the explorer, he worked with Dr. Timothy Leary at the League for Spiritual Discovery in 1963-64. . He also worked with Frank Zappa, shooting his first two album covers. Jazz greats John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and others were also his subjects.

1968: On the move - he left a file cabinet stuffed with negatives with a friend for safe-keeping and headed north to sample bohemian life in Montreal.

1969: A stringer for Life Magazine and Time Canada, Gerry found himself once again photographing Yoko and Leary, along with John Lennon, Tommy Smothers, Dick Gregory, Al Capp, Nat Hentoff and scores of others in an entirely different setting, the Bed-In For Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The culmination was the recording June 1 of the first truly international anthem for peace "Give Peace A Chance".

The photos for Life never ran, being displaced by escalating events in Vietnam and the negatives and contact sheets were returned to him. For Gerry, the initial two-hour assignment was over and a life-changing experience began as the now-historic eight days unfolded. The message of the Bed-In had such impact, he packed the contact sheets and negatives away for the next 35 years, never forgetting John and Yoko%u2019s courageous actions.

1971: Re-building an old van he headed west, just in time join the crew of Greenpeace Too on its mission to try and stop Alaska's Amchitka Island atomic tests. As the years went by, was the Public Relations manager for Alcan's Kitimat plant and helped found a weekly newspaper in Prince Rupert, B.C. Living aboard his wooden boat, the MV Luigi, in his spare time he documented the social and environmental changes on the West Coast.

2001: The events of September 11 shook him to the core. He realized John and Yoko%u2019s example of bringing more peace and compassion into the world needed to be urgently once again in the public eye.

2002-4: One photo is used in Mclean%u2019s and People Magazine, one is shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. An early version of the collection is on show at the Fran Willis Gallery in Victoria .

2004: The selection of 25 high quality art print framed photos opens at the Elliott Louis Gallery in Vancouver to great acclaim. Gerry and his photos are featured in a CBC TV documentary Give Peace A Song which is now distributed world-wide.

2005: The collection is exhibited at the Royal British Columbia Museum for four months starting December 5, 2005. A catalogue is published by Joan Athey. Gerry Deiter passes away suddenly December 9 of a heart attack

2006: Select photos hang in England at the Stoke-On Trent Museum%u2019s Peace Exhibition August to October.

2007: The entire collection is released to Joan Athey, a long time friend, to continue as the Curator, carrying on Gerry's wish to remind people of John and Yoko's message of peace and compassion and to inspire others to use art as a means for humanitarian action.

2008: With the 40th anniversary of the Bed-In approaching in 2009, Joan joins forces with Art Vision Exhibitions to tour the collection. Two of Gerry%u2019s photos are chosen by the National Museum in Liverpool for a major show. One of Gerry%u2019s photos is prominently displayed at Liverpool's Beatles Story Museum.
A major international publisher is successful putting together a book featuring many more powerful unpublished photos from the archives.

2009: Give Peace A Chance: John and Yoko's Bed-in For Peace by Joan Athey, is published by John Wiley and Sons. It is translated into French and German, with more translations in negotiation. 4 photos are featured as part of Yoko Ono%u2019s exhibition Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art April 2 to June 21, 2009. The new exhibition opens May 26 in Liverpool at The Beatles Story Museum and at the same time also on May 26 an exhibition of select limited edition photos opens at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto. Visit www.artvisionexhibitions.com for exhibition information.

** For more information contact Joan Athey, peaceworksnow@shaw.ca