John Reuter was born in Chicago and raised in California and New York. He attended undergraduate school at SUNY Geneseo and graduate school at the University of Iowa, receiving an MFA in 1978.
In 1978 he took a position at Polaroid as a research photographer and in 1980 moved over to be the main photographer in the 20x24 Studio. From 1980 and through the 1990s the 20x24 program became the cornerstone of the Polaroid Artist Support Program. The New York studio was a key part of that program and Reuter worked with artists William Wegman, Joyce Tenneson, Chuck Close, Mary Ellen Mark, David Levinthal, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellen Carey and many others.
Throughout those years Reuter strove to continue his own artistic pursuits despite the full time schedule of the studio. The SX-70 work, which deconstructed the film packet to introduce painted and collage elements was the first major body of work he created with Polaroid materials. Rendered obsolete by technical changes to the SX-70 film this work remains a favorite of the artist.
Seeking a new format Reuter began working with Polacolor II peel-apart film in 1981 to create images with the “image transfer process”. This process allowed the dyes from the film negative to be printed on watercolor paper in lieu of the shiny and sharp Polacolor positive. This became a starting point for a reworking process that enhanced or transformed the image with materials such as retouching dyes, watercolor, pastel and dry pigment. Scale could now be part of the process as Reuter employed 8 x 10, 20 x 24 and multiple 20 x 24 panels to create works up to 40 x 50 inches.
By the late 90s, Reuter began the transition to digital imaging and no longer made the final prints with Polaroid materials. He continued to run the 20 x 24 camera for other artists as it remained part of the soon to be bankrupt Polaroid Corporation. By 2008 he was able to work with Elsa Dorfman and her investor friend Dan Stern to purchase a significant amount of the 20x24 film inventory, camera and production equipment. The camera and original Polaroid film remain viable and are still available for artists and photographers to use.
In 2014 Reuter embarked on a documentary film project titled “Camera Ready: The Polaroid 20x24 Project." It chronicles the origins and history of the project with interviews with artists, writers, curators and some key people at Polaroid who made it possible to survive beyond the demise of the company itself.
Reuter remains the Director of the 20x24 Studio and is also an adjunct professor of photography at the Hartford Art School.