Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

PRESS THIS!!! Peter Wallis – Press Photographer

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Peter Wallis with Vicky + Doug in Toowoomba (iPhone image)

We had a call today from Peter Wallis today to say he was in town and wanted to have yarn. Peter was a photography student of mine at Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE in the mid 1990s. For quite a while he has been one of the main shooters for Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper—mainly specialising in sports. As we sat sipping coffee Peter cradled in his hands an advanced production model from a well-known DSLR manufacturer that was being trialled by the newspaper. That seemed fitting as Peter always had a fetish for the latest and best camera technologies.

Peter Wallis was one of those people who truly loved photography and was a lot of fun in classroom and darkroom. One day he found our Canon 50~350mm zoom (white lens) and probably had it on permanent loan for most of the second year of his associate diploma studies. The lens went to the Birdsville races, to sporting events and places I daren’t ask about. His end of study folio was an impressive generalist photographer with a strong bias to media photojournalism.

On graduating from TAFE Peter fell into newspaper photography in the regional papers in towns like Bundaberg and Gladstone. His break came in the early 2000s when he was shortlisted for a position at the Courier. He and his fellow shortlisted applicant had to work at the paper for a few days to show how they would handle the job. At the end of their trial they were interviewed by the Pictorial Editor—they were both asked what they considered was their BEST picture. Apparently the other candidate pointed out their best shot from the folio laid out on the table—Peter was to tell me later that he’d remembered something I had spoken about during his study years, about the idea of thinking that the BEST picture ‘is the next one I’m going to take!’ He felt that way about his work and used that statement and got the job.

In the nine years since Peter has amassed a significant body of work in the newspaper genre as well as undertaken personal projects in India and Nepal. He is currently documenting the Brisbane Firebirds basketball team. In our conversation we discussed aspects of his industry over his 15 years or practice. He commented, ‘My first newspaper had a darkroom, then we shot colour film, processed it and scanned the images, and then finally we were presented with digital cameras.’

Firebird Shannon Eagland Photo: Peter Wallis

Firebird Elissa Maclead Photo: Peter Wallis


He continues commenting on how the picture got to the back to the paper. Film was straight forward as its physical nature meant that you travelled with it and lovingly processed it. Instant digital capture led to instant transmission. ‘We used to send our images back to the Courier Mail via a satellite dish, then laptop and phone—recently I travelled with Bligh on the election and didn’t even open a laptop.  Sent everything back via an iPad.  And now we shoot DSLR video and send that back as well’.

A grab shot – On the hustings with Bligh and Newman Photo: Peter Wallis


We spoke of concerns for the newspaper industry and the current challenge for the on-line 24-hour update and how images are syndicated through agencies like Getty. Peter has concerns about the future—but right now he’s living the dream that most photographers have that have a love of the challenge of being told by the editor to ‘go here … see the man … and make a bloody great image that I can publish’.

Sporting shadows Photos: Peter Wallis

Open any Courier Mail or Sunday Mail and on most days you’ll see a Peter Wallis picture and most probably it will be an amazing sporting peak action image or an editorial styled image with some kind of visual twist that captures your attention. As mentioned earlier most newspapers today are struggling to maintain print readership and their attempt to transition to online subscription is forcing a hybrid text, still image and video presentation. At this time Peter’s ability to conceptualise and create visually interesting images on the fly is as valuable as ever and stridently makes the claim that photos made by photographers are as important as ever in telling a news story in a moment, on the page, or … on the screen.

Doug Spowart


Pater Wallis with elephant

One Response

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  1. What a wonderful read. I have always admired Peter’s work and had no idea he was a Doug offspring. Fantastic.


    June 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm

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