Berger, Henry Jr. (Portland)

Berger, Henry Jr. (1877-1939) Portland

Berger’s Barn Studio

Berger-Putnam Studio

A prominent fine art and portrait photographer in Portland who won many awards in international exhibitions. He won a gold medal at the 1915 Worlds Fair for his photography. Around 1918 he opened a prestigious portrait studio that was active until around 1940.

His father owned a well established wall paper and painting business. Henry, Jr. worked at the family business and at the same time was an avid amateur photographer. He joined the Oregon Camera Club on May 13, 1902. His print “An Oregon Wild Duck Lake” was selected as one of the 400 best prints in an international exhibition around 1903. In 1905 he won the silver cup (first prize for landscape) in the Oregon Camera Club exhibit at the Portland Art Museum for “A Woodland Path,” and the Oregonian published one of his marine views “In Portland Harbor.” In 1909 he was elected to the board of directors of the OCC. Writing about Berger’s prints in the 1909 exhibition, the Oregonian remarked “’The Picture Hat’ depicted a lady’s head crowned with a handsome picture hat and holding her muff. As an artistic creation it carried out Ruskin’s idea to the letter.” At that exhibition he also showed a moonlight photograph, a pinhole lens print, and marine studies. Berger’s photographs often hung at German exhibitions, and he won medals at Budapest in 1910 and Dresden in 1911. In 1913 he was elected president of the Oregon Camera Club. In 1915 he won one of the two gold medals awarded by the jury at the international photographic exhibit at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, for a print titled “The City” (the gold medal was first place in landscape, and third prize in all categories. The original print of this is now in the Portland Art Museum.).

He then moved to New York to work in color photography studio. He next spent a year in Montana doing motion picture photography of Crow Indians. He returned to Portland around 1918 and opened his portrait studio at 408 Washington (between 10th & 11th SW in room 205 of the Blue Mouse Theater building.) The clients of the portrait business included a high number of artists, dancers, actors, authors, musicians, sculptors and socially prominent individuals including Mayor George Baker.

Berger was frequently a judge at photography exhibitions. In 1929, Edward Weston sent five of his prints to Portland’s International Salon of photography. This was the same year that Weston’s first book was published, containing his famous pepper photographs. This oerve established Weston as one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century, and the prints submitted to Portland included some of the best. The prints were rejected by all of the judges except Berger, who wrote they were “five outstanding prints of the exhibition.” The prints were not hung, and Weston’s disappointment from Portland and Berkley made him stop sending prints to photography salons.

The Berger Studio moved around 1927 to 293 Broadway (between Jefferson & Columbia,) and again around 1929 to 345 Salmon (renumbered 715, between Broadway & Park.) Henry Berger was enthusiastic about photography until illness forced his retirement. Berger died December 9, 1939 in Portland. His studio was assumed by its long-time employees Clyde & Helen Putman. Henry Berger’s son Ben worked at the studio during the early 1930s and moved to New York in the late 1930s.

Historic photos and images