Peter taught and researched Postcolonial Arts and Studies for many years at the University of Exeter, publishing books on Australian art and photography, and on Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List. His doctorate is on photography and the popular illustrated press. He has held research fellowships at the Humanities Research Centre, Canberra; at The Wolfsonian FIU, Miami Beach (on their maritime design collection); and at the universities of Perth and Venice. He has lectured from India and Australia to the United States, and in some ten European countries.

In 1976 he researched 'Gundagai Album: Photographs of An Australian Country Town' for the National Library of Australia, and has also published critical studies of the Australian artists Jeffrey Smart (1983) and Brian Seidel (1993). His 1996 book Building on the Sea: Form and Meaning in Modern Ship Architecture, published by London's National Maritime Museum, explored a lifelong interest and 'effectively laid the foundation by which future studies on modern ship design can be assessed' (Michael Leek, review in The Mariner's Mirror).

Cruise: Identity, Culture and Design (with Dr Bruce Peter) was published in the UK and the US by Laurence King/Rizzoli in 2009. He lectures for luxury cruise companies (mostly Seabourn) worldwide, and each year spends some two months at sea. He lives in the UK with his Italian wife (he speaks quite good Italian); their son and family live in France.

His favourite painter is Norman Wilkinson.