Peter Dechert

Obituary
4 entries | 1 photo
  • "Peter D was my inspiration and teacher when I embarked on..."
    - Peter Kitchingman
  • "Caroline. Am so sorry for the loss of your father. It was a..."
    - Deborah Schilling
  • "He was a very dear man. He was always honest and caring at..."
    - Fr. Dale Coleman
  • "Caroline My deepest sympathy on the loss of your father...."
    - tom dillon
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PETER DECHERT Peter Dechert, photojournalist and jazz musician, died peacefully at his home in Santa Fe on November 22, aged 91. He was a graduate of the Los Alamos Ranch School (1941) and the University of Pennsylvania (BA 1948, MA 1950, PhD 1955). He also attended the Lawrenceville School and Episcopal Academy. A veteran of World War II, Dechert served in the 69th Infantry Division in France, Belgium, and Germany. While he was Staff Sergeant, Chief of Division Artillery Survey Section, his section was cited as the best of its kind in the US Army (1944). He was later appointed to Division Artillery Headquarters Intelligence. He remained in contact with surviving members of his unit, of whom only 5 now survive. Peter taught himself photographic and darkroom techniques in his pre-teen years, and published his first photograph in Leica Magazine at the age of 15. He continued to make photographs until the last week of his life. His work appeared in Business Week, Exploration, Life, Playboy, Today's Health, and many other publications. One favorite was Sports Car magazine; Peter briefly raced sports cars, and was a proud lifetime member of the Sports Car Club of America. The American Society of Magazine Photographers (now the American Society of Media Photographers) honored Peter Dechert by naming him an honorary lifetime member. Peter's photographs have been shown in a variety of gallery settings as well, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to his own Camera West gallery in Santa Fe. During his time with the School of American Research (now SAR) he studied innovative techniques for using photography in archaeological research, including oblique aerial photography. He contributed a section on Communication, Photography, and the Archaeologist to SAR's publication Photography in Archaeological Research. As founder of the Southwest Foundation for Audiovisual Resources, he documented many Indian artists at work. An internationally-renowned expert in camera history, he was best known for his books Canon Rangefinder Cameras 1933-68 and Olympus Pen Single Lens Reflex Cameras. His monthly column for Shutterbug offered a wealth of information about camera equipment old and new. His children remember many afternoons when snack time had to wait because he was hogging the toaster oven to cook black coating on some newly created custom camera part. In all, he wrote 5 books and several hundred articles on cameras and camera equipment. Peter wrote more than magazine articles and camera columns. He loved poetry, taught modern American poetry at the University of Pennsylvania, and wrote many poems of his own. He served as the first President of the New Mexico Poetry Society. His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including New Mexico Magazine, Sunstone Review, The American Pen, The American Bard, and more. In 2008 he published a collection of poems in book form, At Lagunitas, and gave many readings. He also wrote music - jazz music - and played the clarinet and saxophone. He played in Germany after V-E Day with an army big band, then for his own pleasure for many years thereafter. In the 1970's he took to public performance again, as one of the first members of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop and also with the Dechert/Trost Quartet. Peter believed strongly in contributing to his community. During his years as President of the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation he raised funds for Santa Fe's first cancer treatment center. He was a member of the vestry of the Church of Holy Faith from 1994 to 1997 and also served as a lay preacher, taking communion to parishioners at El Castillo, and to shut-in parishioners who could not attend church. At the time of his death he was President of the Residents Council at Brookdale Santa Fe, where he had lived for five years. He never stopped living, creating, and contributing. Peter Dechert survived his wife Phoebe Booth Dechert, who died in 2005. He is survived by his children Sandy Dechert, Robin Dechert Schachat, and Caroline Dechert; Robin's husband Andy Schachat; Sandy's daughters Alyson and Kathryn; a sister, Marian Godey Dixon; and many nieces and nephews. Donations in his memory may be made to the St Vincent Hospital Foundation.
Published in Santa Fe New Mexican on Dec. 29, 2016
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