Aspen Institute features Berko exhibit |

Aspen Institute features Berko exhibit

John Colson
Ferenc Berko photo

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN The world of pre-independence India, as recorded by internationally renowned photographer Ferenc Berko, will be on display for three months at the Aspen Institute Gallery in the Paepcke Building.The exhibit opens with a special reception from 5-7 p.m. today at the gallery, at 1000 N. Third St., behind the Benedict Music Tent.Berko, who recorded striking images of Aspen’s early days as a ski resort and lived here from 1949 until his death in 2000, was one of the chief pioneers in 20th-century photography.Born in 1916 in Hungary and raised in Germany by a foster family after the death of his parents, Berko spent his early years steeped in the progressive ideas of the Bauhaus architectural philosophy.”Great artists such as Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer … encouraged his compositional instinct for geometric combinations of form and for spare tonal values” in the black and white photography of the day, according to a biography on the Berko Photography website.When the Nazi party began to gain prominence in 1934, Berko moved to London to pursue studies in philosophy, but photography turned out to be the passion that sustained him.In 1937, he moved to Paris with his wife, Mirte, to embark on visual experimentation using still and motion photography to capture urban landscapes.From 1938 to 1947, the Berkos lived in Bombay, where he worked as a cameraman for an Indian film producer, opened a photography studio and made recruitment films for the British army.Describing his novel environment, he said, “India opened a completely different life. Visually the country was very exciting, the colors incredible and the people wonderful. Its philosophy, its different mode of life, its music and its dancing, the countryside, the temples and the beautiful sculpture were a tremendous challenge.”Berko’s photographs of India are witness to the exuberance with which he avidly explored the breadth of a country, cultures, traditions, and peoples” the biography continues. In addition, Berko’s time there coincided with the subcontinent’s first steps toward independence, which came in 1947, although his photographs do not focus on the political upheavals of the time.Moving to embrace the emerging art of color photography, Berko took a position teaching photography and film courses at the University of Design in Chicago, and in 1949 accepted an invitation from Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife, Elizabeth, to create a photographic record of the Goethe Bicentennial celebration in Aspen.Entranced by the town, he stayed and began to chronicle Aspen’s evolution both in skiing and in cultural activities. He ran an on-mountain ski photography business in the winters, worked as the officials photographer of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and the Aspen Music Festival in the summers and, with Mirte, raised a family.Today, Berko’s work is collected in national and international venues, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, as well as in a variety of locations in Aspen. He has recently been featured in shows in the U.S. as well as Europe, wrote two books on photography and is recognized as one of the 100 most important photographers of his time.John Colson’s e-mail address is


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