Peter Read was raised in the Christchurch suburb of Papanui. When he left high school, he joined the Christchurch branch of the NZ Broadcasting Corporation, as a trainee film editor. Read mainly edited news and sports stories, plus segments for magazine show Town and Around (he was sometimes confused with the presenter of the same name, who hosted the Wellington edition of the show).
Read's colleague and friend Max Quinn recalls Read had real talent as an editor. But Read thought camera operators had more fun in the field. Around 1968, the pair shared camera duties to make a music video with Christchurch band The Secrets, for Town and Around. Quinn snapped a picture on the day (see Images tab) which is likely the earliest shot of Read behind a film camera.
Read went on to work for local company Orly Productions, editing commercials, before heading to London for his big OE (including time working the box office for Sadler's Wells Opera Company). On his return to New Zealand, Read moved to Wellington where he established himself as a reputable freelance camera operator in the early 70s. Quinn remembers Read "pouring his savings" into an Éclair NPR 16mm film camera, a highly regarded camera in its day. He was a bit of a free spirit which is why I liked him. I guess I was jealous that I didn’t have that same spirit to go out on my own in this cutthroat business," Quinn said.
By the early 1980s, Read was definitely in demand. He shot documentaries on Billy T James and Catherine Tizard, and on the drama front was cinematographer on effects-laden fantasy series Cuckoo Land and one-off Barry Crump drama Hang On A Minute. With director John Anderson, he filmed documentaries in Samoa and was cinematographer on Patricia Grace adaptation Journey (1987). He also shot the music video for Th' Dudes pub anthem 'Bliss'. Max Quinn recalls that Read's shooting style for the video was to get right up close to the band's faces. Says Quinn: "It wasn't a surprise when he gloatingly told me that Mick Jagger once told him to 'piss off', after he stuck his lens through the window of Jagger's car while he was touring New Zealand."
Read was well-liked and respected by his television peers, including veteran sound man Ken Saville, who met Read in Wellington in 1981. Read had recently returned from Irian Jaya (now West Papua) where he shot a documentary, contracted malaria and lost a lot of weight. The freelance camera operator was living in a rowdy flat in Wellington (along with producer/director John Hyde), where the partying (and kauri hot tub) were legendary. "He was the most jovial cameraman I’ve ever had the privilege of working alongside of," says Saville. "Life was for living, getting on with projects and building shit. Not sitting around dreaming about it. He seized the day, every day, by the balls."
Cinematographer Murray Milne used to assist with Read in Wellington in the early 1980s. "I remember running with him on the jet boat documentary Jetstream and catching the camera as it fell, and Peter rolling on down the hill."
Read also shot many commercials for TVNZ. Paula Crombie was part of TVNZ's sales and marketing team, and travelled with Read making commercials. They later made corporate videos together. Crombie counts herself lucky to have worked with him. "He was so professional and creative — he taught me a great deal."
Read and wife Jan lived near Warkworth and then in the Hawke's Bay. Read had to give up camerawork due to bad joints from carrying heavy camera gear for so long; he spent roughly a decade as a postie, before retiring around 2009.
Read was renovating an old bach in Doubtless Bay near Kaitaia, when he passed away on 21 June 2018.
Profile written by Natasha Harris
Published on 27 June 2018