In the early to mid-1970s, Peter Berlin created some of the most recognizable gay male erotic imagery of that time. Serving as his own photographer, model, and fashion designer, Peter redefined self-portraiture and became an international sensation.
His two films, Nights in Black Leather (1972) and That Boy (1974), played to packed houses for years and, along with other pioneering erotic filmmakers such as Wakefield Poole and Jack Deveau, helped bring gay male erotic films artistic legitimacy.
Great-nephew to the famous fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, Peter grew up in a poor, aristocratic family in Berlin during the 1940s and 50s. In his early 20s, he worked as a photographer for the German TV fashion journal VIP Schaukel taking photographs of European celebrities such as Catherine Deneuve, Alfred Hitchcock, Klaus Kinski, and Brigitte Bardot. Berlin's real passion, however, was photographing himself in erotic poses and making skin-tight clothes to wear as he cruised the parks and train stations of Berlin.
In the early 1970s, Peter moved to San Francisco and became a fixture on the streets, famous for his highly suggestive clothing and constant cruising. He collaborated with friend Richard Abel on a 16mm hard-core porn film entitled Nights in Black Leather (1972) in which he played the lead role. Peter's poster for the film was a sensation and helped make Nights in Black Leather an enormous underground hit.
Originally billed as "Peter Burian," Berlin was forced to change his stage name to "Peter Berlin" after an actor named Peter Burian threatened to sue.
As a follow-up, Peter directed, produced, wrote, and starred in That Boy (1974), another wildly successful film.
His self-portraits were widely published and sold, making Peter a gay household name and an international celebrity. He was also the subject of several Robert Mapplethorpe photographs and six drawings by Tom of Finland.
In addition to the two feature films, Berlin made 4 short erotic films in the mid-1970s: "Blueboys" (co-starring his long-time friend Marc Majors), "Waldeslust," "Ciro and Peter," and "Search."
Peter's photographs have been exhibited around the world, most notably in the exhibition Split/Vision (New York, 1986) curated by Robert Mapplethorpe, and in the exhibition Berlin on Berlin at the Leslie/Lohman Gallery (New York, 2006).
Though Peter retreated from the limelight in the 1980s, he continues to make videos of himself and lives quietly in San Francisco, where he is still recognized on the streets by his fans.