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Ferenc Berko (Hungarian, 1916-2000)

Photography

Birth Place: Nagyvarad, Hungary

Biography:

Frenc Berko (January 28th, 1916 - March 18th, 2000) was a Hungarian-born American photographer and filmmaker who pioneered the development of experimental and color photography. Over the course of the 20th century, Berko produced films, photographs, and photojournalistic essays that continue to resonate with art buyers over a half-century later. 

Born in Hungary to middle-class parents, Ferenc moved to Germany after the death of his mother in 1921. While in Germany he attended art school, soaking up aesthetics from famed artists like Hein Gorny and Walter Gropius. Berko and his father moved again in 1933, this time to London where Berko met Emil Otto Hoppe and Marcel Breuer, who encouraged the young Ferenc to continue with his art. 

After winning first prize in a local photography contest at the age of 20, Berko decided to pursue his work full time, making several trips to Paris in the late 1930s to shoot for multiple magazines, most notably The Naturalist. During this time, Ferenc focused on his nude studies and documentary work, exploring post-expressionist techniques on film. This eventually led to Ferenc moving again, this time to Bombay where he accepted a job to film and photograph in the service of the British Military. These years became crucial to the development of Ferenc as a photographer, where he was forced to produce many disparate kinds of photographs. He refined his artistic eye, using the human form both in isolation and within landscape to illuminate shape, shadow, and line. These photographs would represent the last time Berko worked in black and white photography.

Ferenc moved to Chicago in 1947 to teach at the Chicago Institute of Design at the request of fellow photographer Moholy-Nagy. During this time Berko photographed cityscapes, moving toward the abstract while increasingly experimenting with color. A chance invitation to Aspen, Colorado to photograph the Goethe Bicentennial led to Berkos relocating once again to the tiny mountain town. Fascinated by the landscape, Berko rededicated himself to producing abstract forms and exploring how to reconcile the beauty of nature with the advent of modern photography.

As Aspen grew, Berko stayed to work and document in the rapidly-changing town. He became the official photographer for the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and the Aspen Music Festiva and opened his own mountainside ski photography business. These revenue streams gave Berko the freedom he needed to pursue his work with abstract color photography. In 1951, he founded the Aspen Photography Conference which has featured some of the brightest luminaries of the photography world including Ansel Adams, Laura Gilpen, Dorothea Lange, and countless others. 

Berko’s work has appreciated since his death in 2000. He was recognized as one of the 100 most important photographers of the 20th century and his articles and photographs have been included in multiple books including 60 Years of Photography: The Discovering Eye and Berko: Photographs 1935-1951. His work still tours the world. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Value of Ferenc Berko Photographs

How much are Ferenc Berko’s photographs worth?

A typical nude portrait by Ferenc Berko is estimated to be worth about $1500 USD. Some have fetched prices at auction in excess of $2000 USD.

What are famous photographs by Ferenc Berco?

Abstract Architectural Studies (1945-50), his Abstract Color Studies (1960s) and his Nude Series (1940).

What is the value of a Ferenc Berko photograph? 

On average an authentic Ferenc Berko photograph will sell for over $1000. Some have sold in the thousands of dollars. 


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