To those who knew him and the circumstances of his early life, it was no surprise that Peter Caton became a celebrated photographer with a social conscience. He received his degree in photography in Middlesbrough, where he gained firsthand experience of the hardships of working class life in northern England; and he was brought up in Scarborough, at the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, where his parents ran a large children’s home. Their involvement in social work gave a strong moral underpinning to his early life, raising Peter’s awareness of social issues and foreshadowing his own career as a photojournalist who would focus almost exclusively on humanitarian causes, disadvantaged groups and some of the great global crises of our age.
After several trips to Asia in early 2006, Peter committed himself to living out of two rucksacks and working on the sub-continent as a freelance professional. Much of his subsequent work was commissioned by leading non-governmental organizations, with clients including Save the Children, CARE, Greenpeace, WWF, UNHCR, UNAIDS, Oxfam, and The Red Cross.
In 2007 Peter agreed to undertake a study of climate refugees in the Sundarbans region of India. The trip opened his eyes to the scale of change the planet is undergoing due to global warming. Shortly thereafter, in November 2007, the Bangladeshi part of the Sundarbans was inundated by Cyclone Sidr. Peter was able to document the aftermath on behalf of CARE International and Muslim Aid. These trips helped shape Peter’s views on the human impact on climate change and this has been the main focus of his photographic journey ever since.
Photographic exhibitions are an important vehicle for communicating Peter’s stories to the public. In 2010, he opened the Sinking Sundarbans exhibition in partnership with Greenpeace at the Oxo Gallery in London. The project has since traveled internationally and was seen in cities across the world, from Asia to South America and the United States.
The focus of Peter’s environmental work shifted in 2011 to the Brazilian ‘cerrado’, the most bio-diverse savannah on the planet, a unique habitat in danger from agribusiness and monoculture. The first part in a planned series of cerrado work was well-received in two solo shows in Brazil in 2012. Another highlight of a very successful year saw Caton’s images projected onto the exterior walls of the famous Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo.
Since then, Peter has turned his focus to the African continent documenting here some of the most devastating humanitarian and climate related crises of the decade. This period has seen Peter work on the relentless drought in Somalia and the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique as part of an on-going project to document the aftermath of climate related natural disasters.
Peter’s photography has appeared in many publications worldwide, including The Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Esquire and Le Figaro. His monochrome portraits of leprosy victims have been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Peter continues living out of one suitcase and working with a digital H5D 50c Hasselblad along with mobile lighting to capture studio-quality images in the most remote areas of the world.
I have had the pleasure of commissioning Peter, on behalf of Greenpeace, for a number of occasions, most notably in India for stories on the sinking Sunderbans, genetically engineered cotton and the sacred disappearing Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas. Once taking the assignment Peter is professional from the word go. He goes to great lengths to produce in depth story telling with exceptional pictures, testimonials and strong backup material.
It was an honor for me to help him construct the highly acclaimed Sunderban’s exhibition at the OXO gallery in London in 2009 where he showed skilled and creative medium format portraits and background coverage of a land and people desperately under the threat from extreme weather and climate change. The show made a great impact on media and public visiting the exhibition.
Peter is one of the core team of the photographer freelance pool for Greenpeace International who regularly get global commissions on a range of environmental issues and campaigns.
Former Greenpeace pic editor
“I have worked with Peter for a number of years on a variety of diverse photography projects. IPPF has commissioned Peter to capture our work across the world including sex workers in Nepal and the hijra community in India. Peter’s photos never fail to have an impact. He effortlessly manages to capture the nuances of an individual’s story whether it is moving, disturbing, beautiful or optimistic. Peter has a natural flare for building trust and engaging his subjects so that they feel at ease and ultimately enable the perfect moment to be captured. Peter has a contemporary and distinctive style that sets him apart from many photographers working in his field”.
IPPF Publishing Officer
“The photos that Peter Caton has taken on our trips to some of the world’s most marginalised countries often live long after the shoot has finished, cropping up in all aspects of our communications work to this very day. Those images tend to be both beautiful and poignant. He has a great ability to capture the emotion and story behind the subject and often goes the extra mile to get that key shot. Peter's flexibility and energy in his work ethic, combined with his bold personality is a great asset, making him someone that VSO has enjoyed working with and would definitely recommend.”