Fly to the tip of South America. Board an icebreaker to cross the great passage. Helicopter to mainland Antarctica and hike through minus 40-degree temperatures.
This is the journey that travel photographer Peter Guttman, ‘76, took to reach his subject: emperor penguins.
Guttman is a photographer, app creator, artist and lecturer who has traveled the world throughout his career. He has gone tornado-chasing across the United States, exploring in Panamanian jungles and gorilla-tracking in Ugandan rainforests.
When Guttman started at Binghamton University, he was on a pre-med track. However, after a short time — and a lot of thinking — his life took a new direction. He graduated with a major in geography with the goal of traveling the globe.
“I just realized that the world was so huge and vast and I really wanted to sample it in a full and complete way,” he said. “I felt that if I stayed in medicine that wasn’t going to be happening.”
After college, he worked as a tour guide, traveling and developing a photography portfolio throughout the United States. Meanwhile, he was learning the art of storytelling with his tour audiences, telling tales about the trees and roads outside of the bus windows.
He ultimately began pitching his photos to different publications, and eventually established a career in travel photography.
“I found it vastly more compelling to follow my own dreams and impulses and explore those things that drove my curiosity in the strongest way,” Guttman said.
Guttman has authored eight image-driven books featuring his travels. His photography was also made into Beautiful Planet HD, a best-selling travel app.
His work has been celebrated with numerous news features and awards. Guttman is a recipient of BU’s Alumni Achievement Award and received a George Eastman Power of the Image Award in Beijing, China.
The subject matter of his photography ranges from the seemingly mundane to the overtly spectacular. Guttman said he considers himself an artist in his approach.
“I’m primarily going through life as an artist,” he said. “I use my journalistic talents as a tool and a skill in order to convey my artistic impulses in a manner that can help inform and educate and illuminate and illustrate my feelings and my ideas.”
After more than three decades as a photographer, Guttman said he still has a long list of trips to take, including climbing to the peak of Mount Everest and experiencing the culture in Yemen.
According to Guttman, his own sense of mortality drives him toward more adventure.
“The limited time we have, I see it as such a blessing and I think that’s what spurred on that first and only midlife crisis in Binghamton University,” he said. “If I was only going to have this one limited lifespan, I was going to try to cram it with as many experiences as possible. I saw it as my only way of cheating Mother Nature was to live as many lifetimes as possible.”
Correction, Friday, Dec. 8 at 4 p.m.: A previous version of this article said that Guttman worked with Robert Jarvik. He was never employed by, nor did he work with, Robert Jarvik. It also stated that Guttman was employed by Fodor’s Travel, but his work was only featured on the cover of some of the company’s publications. Pipe Dream regrets the errors.
Correction, Thursday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m.: A previous version of this article called Guttman a “photojournalist.” He considers himself a “travel photographer.” The article also stated that Guttman’s work has primarily been used for photojournalism, but it has been used primarily as travel photography. It also used his phrase “worldwind kaleidoscopic roller coaster” to refer to his body of work; that phrase was meant to describe an annual show he hosts. Pipe Dream regrets the errors.