Ferenc Berko

(1916 - 2000) American (b. Hungary)


Born in Nagyvárad, Ferenc Berko moved to Germany with his family shortly after World War I. As a teenager he discovered photography and was exposed to the ideas of many prominent artists and photographers, including László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius. From 1933 to 1947 he lived in London, Paris, and Bombay, where he established himself as a filmmaker and photographer. His photojournalistic and documentary work, as well as his nude studies, were reproduced regularly in Lilliput, Minicam, U.S. Camera, Popular Photography, and other magazines, although he earned his living primarily by making portraits. At the invitation of Moholy-Nagy, Berko came to the United States in 1947 to teach at the Chicago School of Design (now called the Institute of Design), and he pursued his avid interests in color photography. Walter Paepcke, a supporter of the school and president of the Container Corporation of America, in 1949 persuaded him to settle in Aspen and work as a publicity, advertising, and portrait photographer for his company. From 1951 until his death, Berko was a filmmaker and advertising and documentary photographer in Aspen. Exhibitions of his work have been featured at the Cincinnati Museum of Art, Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Fotografie Forum in Frankfurt, ICP, and elsewhere.
Berko's photographs reveal a diversity of technique and a range of subject matter, which the photographer approaches with gentle, perceptive humor. The pictures he made in India with a Leica camera demonstrate a lively, small-format aesthetic and a fine eye for street photography. His color photographs from the late 1940s--close-up images of crumbling walls, reflections, peeling posters, barn doors, windows--are striking for their exploration of abstract uses of color, an interest shared with his contemporaries Harry Callahan and Arthur Siegel.
Cynthia Fredette
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 208.
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