Peter S. Carter, 1943-2013

Influential local photographer and advertising executive Peter S. Carter died last night after a fall on the stairs of his Victorian home. A gifted strategist, he advised valley political and business leaders and operated a successful advertising agency for many years, reinventing himself as a photographer of social events as the industry changed.

A co-founder of the Los Gatos Social Club, the witty and worldly Carter frequently entertained at his historical home in the downtown Los Gatos Broadway neighborhood, where he maintained an impeccable garden.

Carter, who was born in San Diego, had turned 70 on February 20. He attended Bellarmine College Preparatory school in San Jose and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

His advertising agency was located in two historic mansions at N. First Street and Hobson streets, near Japantown, and was variously known as Carter Callahan, Carter Waxman and Carter Israel. He kept a signed photograph of Ronald Reagan on the wall, and his clients included everything from boutique brands of Mexican beer to technology firms and large commercial developers. He did pro-bono work for numerous local causes and organizations, most recently photographing last weekend’s annual gala for the San Jose Rotary Club, of which he was an active member.

Carter was a founding shareholder of both the original Los Gatos Weekly and the Metro publishing group that publishes three weeklies and is an owner of San Jose Inside. When they were just ideas, Carter lent his name, held receptions and helped put together the investment groups to launch the two media companies.

Carter was involved in the elections of San Jose Mayors Tom McEnery and Ron Gonzales. “He had a lot of political knowledge and opinions, and was always willing to help out,” said former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery. County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, a neighbor, said this morning that he was “shocked and devastated” by Carter’s sudden passing. “For 29 years, Peter has been not just a friend and neighbor, but also a mentor and colleague.”

Carter had a keen eye for discovering and hiring emerging advertising talent, and many of his former employees went on to start firms of their own.

He is survived by sons Scott and Shawn, his wife Dennise McNulty Carter, and four grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Alameda Family Funeral Home.


  1. My heart is so heavy today learning of the tragic loss of our dear friend Peter. I exchanged emails with him yesterday and he graciously took our picture and many others Saturday night at Rotary’s annual event—as he did every year. I hope Dennise, Scott, Shawn and his other family members can take solace knowing that Peter was loved by his many friends and he will be deeply missed by all of us.  Clarence Stone

  2. Devastating.  He was a lot of fun and could be a bit over-the-top.  He always referred to me as his “communist” friend. 

    His laughter was infectious and his irreverance for any type of political correctness was legendary.  A conservative soul who adapted to many a democrat out of sheer necessity, he will be missed.

  3. I remember well my first meeting with Peter, in his office, shortly after my arrival in San Jose in 1981.

    We soon discovered that we were both wine enthusiasts.  Peter lamented that he could no longer enjoy his favorite red wines, because drinking red wines gave him terrible headaches.  I told him that I had read that the headaches are often caused by histamines found in red wines, and that taking an antihistamine tablet before drinking red wine might eliminate the.

    A week later Peter told him that he tried it and that it worked, so he then could enjoy red wine.

    It means so much that the photo at the head of the article is one of Peter savoring a glass of red wine.
    He will really be missed.

  4. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. Peter was one of my favorite political and business leaders and yes photographers. RIP. The greater valley will miss you.

  5. So shocking.  I was teasing Peter at the Rotary Gala Saturday night, calling him “Piotr Veliki” – which in Russian means Peter the Great.  He gave me a big smile and laughed.  And he dispensed lots of hugs all evening and took many photos.

    Peter was great – a great friend, a great host, a great community supporter, a great needler and polemicist, a great, spirited personality.

    Rod and I will miss him so much and are so sad for Dennise and their families.

  6. My heart aches today. Peter helped so many of us get elected, opening his home many times for me, Tom Campbell, Becky Morgan and a slew of others. Dennise and Peter have been a tremendous force of good in our community.  I love the photo credit on the San Jose Inside site.

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