Peter Solmssen began his career as a photographer for LIFE magazine, working with such photographic icons as Alfred Eisenstadt and Andreas Feininger. In the 1960’s, while serving for five years as an American diplomat in Brazil, he photographed and filmed the cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Salvador, capturing the very distinct personalities, cultures and people of these three very different communities.
While Rio and São Paulo are only some 200 miles apart, Peter found that moving from one to the other was like moving from one country to another. The climates, populations and activities are markedly different. Rio is the capital of “tropicalismo”, with life centered on the beaches and samba and a very fun-loving people. São Paulo is cooler, less colorful and focused on its role as a major industrial center. Peter felt that Rio wanted to be photographed in color, while São Paulo seemed to call for black and white. Each was tremendously stimulating in its own way, he found.
Peter concluded his long diplomatic career as Deputy Ambassador-at-Large for Cultural Affairs in the U.S. State Department, guiding major international cultural efforts such as the King Tut and Chinese Bronze Exhibitions. He became the founding President of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and continues as its President Emeritus.