Charles I. Berg was a successful New York architect, who was born in Philadelphia in 1856. He studied in the late 1870s at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and then in architectural offices in London. He began practicing in 1880, and became part of the New York firm Cady, Berg, and See. Berg’s most important design was the twenty-story Gillender Building, which opened in 1897 in the financial district as one of the city’s earliest skyscrapers (no longer standing). In 1915, he consulted on the Presidential Palace in Havana, Cuba. He was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a charter member of the Architectural League of New York.
Berg took up photography around 1887 and was exhibiting by a few years later. He joined the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York, and showed in its annual members’ exhibitions as early as 1889. In 1896, he became a founding member of the important Camera Club of New York. As its first print committee chairman, he oversaw the club’s ground-breaking series of one-person shows, including one of his own work in 1900. Berg was well represented in Camera Notes, the club’s nationally-read quarterly, with five photogravures. As an architect, he assisted the club in renovating its new quarters after more than one of its numerous moves. And, he continued to be active in it until at least 1923, serving at various times as trustee, president, and print judge.
Berg’s photographs frequently picture classically draped models surrounded by architectural elements. They appeared most regularly between 1896 and 1901 in photographic annuals and monthlies, such as American Amateur Photographer, American Annual of Photography, Photo Era, Photographic Times, and England’s Photograms of the Year. The February 1898 issue of Goodey’s Magazine featured a lead article on him and his work. In 1901, art critic Charles H. Caffin included an image by Berg in his ground-breaking book Photography as a Fine Art: The Achievements and Possibilities of Photographic Art in America. Due to Berg’s expertise, he judged exhibitions and competitions for the Orange (New Jersey) Camera Club in 1899, the Philadelphia Photographic Salon in 1901, and the Eastman Kodak Company in 1902.
Berg’s work was seen in exhibitions for nearly thirty-five years. During the 1890s, it was included in salons in Philadelphia, London, and Paris, in other shows in New York, Syracuse, and Calcutta, and at least twice in the Joint Exhibitions (organized by the leading camera clubs in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia). During the first decade of the twentieth century, his pictures were seen at exhibitions in Chicago, Glasgow, Turin, and elsewhere. The juries of the first three showing of the Pittsburgh Salon of Photographic Art accepted his work in 1914, 1915, and 1916. And, his pictures also passed the jury for the inaugural salon of the Pictorial Photographers of America, in New York in 1923. Charles I. Berg died on October 13, 1926, after being hospitalized for a year.
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012)