Artist Spotlight Delighted by Everything: The Photographic Eye of Peter Willis

J.D. O’Gara
Issue Date: 
June, 2018
Article Body: 

Ask Peter Willis what he likes, and he replies, “Everything.”
Peter Willis , 26, and his camera, is well known around the town of Franklin. He’s known among town and state officials, and even to members of the New England Patriots.
“I’m everywhere,” smiles the young photographer, who has moved beyond his special needs label to let his artwork shine.
“His photography is artistic,” says Linda Willis-Behr, Peter’s Mom. “He sees things other people don’t see.”
Peter says he can’t explain why he’s moved to take certain photographs, but indicates he’s attracted by “nature” and “light.” He’ll be drawn by the color of green against berries, a special angle, the look of a lighthouse against the elements (he’ll be putting together a calendar of his lighthouse photos) and even formations of a snowfall.
Peter has been a mentee of Franklin photographer Paul Vicario for about nine years.
“He used to come as an intern when he was in high school,” says Vicario, who worked with Best Buddies program coordinator Carol Merchant in working with Peter, who was always showing up to take pictures of events Vicario would photograph.
“He is oftentimes my test subject, when I’m trying out my lighting and lenses. You can’t try out a new idea with a customer, you have to phase it in, and Peter is a part of that,” says Vicario. Peter also helps process orders, and Paul helps Peter with his pictures.
“He is always happy,” says Vicario. “He loves to show his pictures.” Vicario, an award-winning master photographer of the Professional Photographers of America, who began his training in photography in 1984, has taken Peter under his wing.
“Peter comes here and learns stuff from me, but I learn about being a good person from Peter.
He’s always upbeat and happy and a friend to everybody he meets. He’s always the first one to say hi to strangers we pass. He is connected to the place that we all start from, and the proof of it is the following of the people that know him and like him,” says Vicario.
Peter’s stepfather, Dennis, has also taught him the art of photography. Dennis and Peter’s biological father, Grenville, often take him out to shoot pictures. Although Peter’s Mom, Linda, notes that Peter began with a simple point-and-shoot camera, it was Dennis that provided him with his first “good” camera, a Nikon d40.
“Carol Merchant, the Best Buddies job coach at the High School, realized he had pretty good talent with the camera and hooked him up with Paul V., who made him an intern,” says Dennis. Later, Peter would meet and impress Katelyn Chandler while volunteering at the YMCA. Chandler had a background in fine art and was impressed with Peter’s capabilities.
Chandler helped Peter put together a website for his work as well as a Facebook and Twitter page. Peter has turned out to be handy with technology and stays on top of posts. Chandler was so motivated to help Peter put his work out to the community that she spearheaded a “One for Peter” movement among Franklin businesses, encouraging them to purchase a print from Peter, and post his logo and QR code to show their support and encouragement. Last month, with the help of King Street Café owner Beau Grassia, Chandler put together a private event to celebrate Peter’s work, drawing scores of local supporters. You can see his work still hanging at King Street Café.
Peter has shown and sold his work at the YMCA, and in fact has been commissioned by the YMCA to produce a calendar as well as by King Street Café to produce a series of photographs for its new additional Millis location. He’s also shown his work at Remax, and coming up in Orleans, on June 22nd, 23rd and 24th, Peter will be part of the Artist Cottages at Orleans Market Square, on Cape Cod.
“He’s trying to be self-sufficient, to beat all odds,” says Willis-Behr, of her son, the youngest of three and uncle of six, who’s pleased that he is learning the skills of running his own business.
You can view Peter’s work online by visiting or by searching for “Peter Willis Photography” on Facebook. Or, you can scan the QR code below.