Peter Sekaer was a photographer born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1901. He immigrated to the United States in 1918 to seek freedom and opportunity. After successfully operating a printing business in New York City producing posters, advertisements and window displays, he enrolled in the Art Students League in 1929 to study painting. He soon became involved in the New York art scene, befriending, among others, the artist Ben Shahn and the photographer Walker Evans.
By 1934 Sekaer had left painting behind to study photography with Berenice Abbott at the New School for Social Research. Through his friendship with Walker Evans he secured contracts from 1936 to 1943 to work on assignment as a photographer for various government agencies that were created as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program.
In 1945 Sekaer started his own commercial photography business, shooting advertisements and human interest stories for magazines. He was hired by the federal government agency, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), and later became the head of the REA’s graphic department. In 1938 the REA sent Sekaer to the United States Housing Authority (USHA). The photographs Sekaer made for the USHA, an agency primarily concerned with the removal of city slums and sponsorship of public urban housing, reveal his continued interest in the richness of human experience and environment. Transferred again in 1940 Sekaer photographed Navajo and Pueblo Indians for the Office of Indian Affairs. That same year, he worked as photographic researcher and still photographer for the REA film Power and the Land.
He continued working for other federal agencies photographing briefly for the Office of War Information (OWI), and the American Red Cross-agencies whose agendas conflicted with his own, and limited his freedom in artistic expression. Continually frustrated by this, Sekaer left Washington, DC for New York where he freelanced for several years, doing fashion and editorial assignments.
In 1950, at age forty-nine, Sekaer suffered a fatal heart attack. His life’s work has been preserved by his wife, Elisabeth Sekaer Rothschild, and their younger daughter, Christina Sekaer.