Congratulations, Ian Berry

April 4, 2019

On April 4, the British photojournalist is celebrating his 85th birthday. LFI congratulates the long-time Magnum member and Leica photographer!
It was the pictures he took in South Africa that first drew the attention to Berry's work. He had emigrated there in 1952, learnt photography and worked for Roger Madden, a South African photographer who had assisted Ansel Adams, among others. He also soon got to know Jürgen Schadeberg, who had arrived in Johannesburg in 1950. Berry's pictures of the Sharpeville massacre, where, on May 21, 1960, thousands of black Africans demonstrating peacefully against the Apartheid regime, were brutally beaten by the police resulting in the deaths of 69 people, earned the photographer worldwide recognition. The images also served as evidence during the legal debates that took place later.

Berry first worked for daily newspapers and magazines, including important publications such as Drum magazine; later on, his free-lance work became more important. He left South Africa in 1962, moved to Paris and was invited to joined the Magnum Agency by Henri Cartier-Bresson. He has been a full member of the agency since 1967. In 1964 he moved to London, where he became the first contractual photographer for The Observer magazine.

A fully committed photojournalist, Berry is counted among the most important representatives of humanistic photography. His assignments took him all over the world, which led to his documenting the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the conflicts in Israel, Ireland, Vietnam and Congo, and starvation in Ethiopia. He also reported on the political and social changes in China and in the former USSR. Berry's pictures have appeared in numerous, significant magazines, such as National Geographic, Fortune, Stern, Geo, Esquire, Paris-Match and Life. He has also published many books (!The! English, London 1978 and Living Apart: South Africa under Apartheid, London 1996, among others) and he has been the recipient of a number of awards. When characterising Berry's work, the British curator Martin Harrison underlined very pertinently “the notable ease with which he combines psychological intensity with lyrical realism”.

In 2012, Leica honoured the photographer with a black lacquered Leica M9-P. This special camera, which has the photographer's name engraved on it, was sold in November 2018 at the Westlicht Photo Auction in November 2018, for the healthy sum of 18,000 euros; and the photographer's older Leica models have also found new homes.

In an interview for Britain's Guardian paper a couple of years ago, Berry cited his mentor Henri Cartier-Bresson, “If I take one good photo a year, then I'm good”. Even though Berry also believes Cartier-Bresson was right, it can be said that, in view of his complete body of work, his output is happily a lot higher than that. Congratulations, Ian Berry!

Magnum Photos
Image © René Burri / Magnum Photos / Agentur Focus

Congratulations, Ian Berry