|Gerry Deiter was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He started experimenting with photography before he was in his teens, wandering the city and recording its color, and teaching himself composition and darkroom technique as he did. He attended university in New York City, and was active in the anti-Viet Nam war movement from the early 1960s.
As part of his training, Gerry apprenticed to several of New York’s top fashion photographers, including the late Francesco Scavullo. He was also recording the exciting contemporary art scene in the city of the mid-‘60s, including one of the most avant-garde group of artists, The Fluxus Group, of which Yoko Ono was a founder. He photographed many now-legendary jazz musicians, and produced the photos for two early album covers for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
In 1968, the political atmosphere in the US, especially the continuing U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, impelled him to move to Montréal, where he continued working in fashion, as well as photographing the colourful and exciting arts and music scene there.
In June, 1969 he learned from a friend at LIFE Magazine that John Lennon and Yoko Ono planned to take to bed in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and to invite the entire world to join them, symbolically, in working to restore peace to the world. He and the LIFE writer were granted one of the first interviews with John and Yoko, and Gerry was with them, photographing, for the entire eight days of the Bed-In.
Due to a major international news story that broke unexpectedly, LIFE never published the story, and Gerry eventually filed the photos away. But his work came to the attention of TIME Canada’s art director, and with this opportunity he eschewed fashion and commercial photography and devoted himself to photojournalism.
Gerry worked as a stringer for TIME for the next six years, covering Canada’s political scene, counter-culture, and the burgeoning environmental movement. He was a crew member and photographer aboard Greenpeace Too in 1971, on that organization’s first campaign to halt the atomic test at Amchitka Island in the Gulf of Alaska, and received credits in TIME and LIFE for his coverage of that story. Another Greenpeace mission 20 years later saw him and his teen-aged son sail together aboard the Rainbow Warrior to protest the opening of a US Navy nuclear submarine testing facility near Ketchikan, Alaska.
It wasn’t until 30 years after the Bed-In that Gerry’s son and friends prevailed upon him to make his images of John and Yoko available to the public. He says the widespread mourning that took place in December 2000, on the 20th anniversary of John’s murder, as well as the growing interest in John’s peace legacy, were the other deciding factors. The events subsequent to September 11th helped convince him the world had to be reminded of John’s message of peace and compassion.
Although a working photographer since his early 20s, Gerry’s prints had never before been displayed as art; “in frames and on walls,” as he puts it. Until his first show at a California gallery in 2001, magazine and fashion photography and, primarily, photojournalism were the media through which he’s communicated his message. Some of the Bed-In photos were also on exhibition as giclee reproductions for eight weeks at the Fran Willis Gallery in Victoria, B.C.
Today Gerry continues to cruise the wilderness of the British Columbia coast aboard his classic, 63-year-old wooden motor-yacht, photographing and writing about a world and a way of life that are fast disappearing.