Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Belief in Motion

Photo of horses running in a snowstorm

This Thursday’s Picture of the Week has little to do with exotic locations or unusual circumstances. Rather, it has everything to do with what it represents: belief.

Behind the Scenes: Aspen 1981—Snow is falling in fat, heavy flakes. Jeffrey knows it’s a perfect morning to create a photograph he’s been envisioning since he took a photo workshop from renowned photographer, Ernst Haas, several months earlier.

Haas is considered one of the most important figures in 20th century photography and is lauded as a leader in the art of color imagery.

Jeffrey has only owned a camera for a few years and is awash in enthusiasm for the art form, and the unlimited possibilities it offers.

Portrait of Ernst HaasThe workshop Haas leads at Anderson Ranch Arts Center focuses on motion, a technique he pioneered when he photographed bullfighting and the Indianapolis 500 in the 1950′s. Instead of shooting a fast shutter speed and freezing the subjects, as was typical of the time, he shot them with a slow shutter speed to capture the beauty of the motion.

• • •

Photo of race cars by Ernst HaasPhoto of bullfighting by Ernst Haas

“To express dynamic motion through a static moment became for me limited and unsatisfactory. The basic idea was to liberate myself from this old concept and arrive at an image in which the spectator could feel the beauty of a fourth dimension, which lies much more between moments than within a moment. In music one remembers never one tone, but a melody, a theme, a movement. In dance, never a moment, but again the beauty of a movement in time and space.”

–Ernst Haas

The approach Haas teaches at his workshop resonates with Jeffrey, and he knows he wants to capture the beauty and fluidity of horses running in the snow.

• • •

On the morning of the snowstorm, while most people are loading up their skis or hunkering down with a hot cup of coffee and a good book in front of the fireplace, Jeffrey puts on his heavy Sorrel boots, gets in his car and drives up Red Mountain.

After navigating the steep, windy road overlooking town, he parks his car next to a small meadow where horses are being boarded for the winter. The wind is blowing, flakes are sailing, and the horses begin running as soon as Jeffrey gets out of his car.

Jeffrey raises his camera and captures poetry in motion.

• • •

What happens next is where belief comes into play…

A few years later, Jeffrey is asked to be a part of a group exhibition at Unicorn Gallery, an Aspen gallery owned by entrepreneur Randy Woods. Jeffrey is humbled to be in the company of abstract painter, Richard Carter (former assistant to renowned artist Herbert Bayer of the Bauhaus School), and print maker, Tom Benton, creator of the famous Hunter Thompson campaign posters of the 70s.

Portrait of print maker Thomas BentonTom Benton Hunter Thompson PosterTom Benton Fat City PrintPortrait of artist, Dick CarterRichard Dick Carter Art

On the night of the opening, the gallery is abuzz with art enthusiasts, including internationally reputed photographer Ferenc (Franz) Berko.

Portrait of Franz BerkoBerko, a tall, slender, ascot-wearing European transplant, greets Jeffrey with a gentle smile and quiet hello.

Franz and his wife, Mirte, had come to Aspen in 1949 at the invitation of Walter Paepcke to photograph the Goethe Bicentennial. It was during the age of Aspen’s transformation from purely a silver mining town to a world-class ski resort and artist colony.

The Berkos were enamored with the mountains and town and ended up staying permanently. Below are a few images Franz shot over the years, when he not only turned his camera on the Goethe Bicentennial, but the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and numerous other subjects.

Rubinstein in Aspen, Colorado by Franz BerkoPhoto of Albert Schweitzer in Aspen, Colorado by Ferenc BerkoPhoto of Bayer Wall in Aspen, Colorado by Ferenc BerkoPhoto of ski touring Pearl Pass in Aspen, Colorado by Franz BerkoPhoto of kids walking up stairs by Franz BerkoPhoto of Ballet by Franz Berko

©Berko Photos: Top (L) Arthur Rubinstein, (R) Albert Schweitzer, Middle (L) Work on the Herbert Bayer wall, (R) Ski touring up Pearl Pass. Bottom (L) Children, (R) Overview of ballerina

• • •

Later during the opening Berko approaches Jeffrey once again. This time he simply says, “I would like to buy a print of your horses running for my daughter.”

Jeffrey is stunned.

He smiles and stammers for a minute, then replies, “Franz, I would like to give you a print.”

Franz will have nothing to do with it.

“No, I insist I pay you for it. Your art is worth much more than you are asking. Please make me a print and bring it to Mirte’s toy store next week.”

“There’s only one thing,” he continues, “you must sign it.”

At that moment, Jeffrey knows for certain he is headed in the right direction following his passion for photography.

• • •

Franz and Jeffrey soon become dear friends, and Franz stays deeply interested in Jeffrey’s career, often giving him quiet advice throughout the years, until his death in 2000.

This photograph of the horses running will always remain a special image to Jeffrey because it represents so many things to him: his love of photography, his inner drive and enthusiasm when he was just beginning his career, and most of all, somebody’s belief in him and his ability to see.

“When you’re just starting out and one of the most respected photographers in the art world appreciates your work enough to buy a print, there’s no greater approval,” Jeffrey says.

• • •

Berko Studio on Aspen's Main Street In a “small world” twist, the Berko Gallery, which is run by Franz’s granddaughter, Mirte Mallory, is now housed in a charming purple Victorian on Aspen’s Main Street—a home that Jeffrey and I owned and lived in for many years in the mid-1990’s.Yep, see that brick walkway? Jeffrey and I laid it with our own hands. “Our” purple Victorian will always hold sweet memories for us, and now it’s even more special because it holds the photographs of somebody who not only made a powerful impact on Jeffrey’s career, but also his life.

Now it’s your turn. Who has been the “Franz” of your life? Who has believed in you and given you the confidence to reach your potential? I’d love to hear all about this wonderful person!

17 thoughts on “Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Belief in Motion

  1. Pingback: The Answer to Name That Photographer is… | The Art of an Improbable Life

  2. I wish I could say I had a ‘Franz’ in my life . . . And I so love the way this tale of an exquisite horse photo has a motion all its own, full circle. Short of one person (yes, my mother) who sent me inspirational tidbits from newspapers, etc., plus a hand-written note I still have — ‘Never give up’ — I suppose what drives me to fulfill my potential is a sense that I cannot imagine my life without writing. LIke any person pursuing a creative endeavor, there are moments of extreme doubt — why am I doing this? Then I remind myself of words of encouragement from other writers, editors, etc., over the years and this extraordinary, evolving community I now find myself in.

    • Your comment, and several others, made me realize how few people have had a “Franz” in their lives. Creativity is a driving force in itself, but a mentor can help untangle that curse of self-doubt that most artists wrestle with at times. You may not have had a “Franz” in your life, per se, but I am certain that you are being a “Franz” to many others. Your words of encouragement always make me feel like I’m staying on the right course. Thank you, Deborah!

  3. My friend Monica sent me to your page because of the photo, which is breathtaking! As someone who has been around horses since birth, it is striking to me because of the movement. As you mention, so many photographers “freeze” the image and while beautiful in their own right we miss seeing the power and motion that makes them such amazing animals. Such a great shot!

    In addition your story is wonderful. What a great memory you share here with us all. Thanks for the beautiful visual and written art. A great way to start the day.

    • That is so nice of Monica! I’m glad you enjoyed this image so much. I love the power and fluidity of the horses. They are beautiful animals. Thanks for taking the time to swing by my blog and leave a comment. And thanks for tweeting too!

  4. This photograph of horses, simply awesome. This creation of Jeffrey will be top of my favorite list among all those wonderful images you posted till now.
    Becky, you wrote each part of this blog so beautifully; I can tell you this one is a really inspiring post.
    “After navigating the steep, windy road overlooking town, he parks his car next to a small meadow where horses are being boarded for the winter. The wind is blowing, flakes are sailing, and the horses begin running as soon as Jeffrey gets out of his car.Jeffrey raises his camera and captures poetry in motion.” – This part was simply outstanding.

    • I’m glad the photograph and words resonated with you Arindam. It’s fun to share this story about Franz and let other people know what a wonderful person and photographer he was. Even if we haven’t all had a “Franz” in our lives, it’s a good reminder to try to be a “Franz” to somebody else, especially when we see potential.

  5. Out of all the photos in motion here, the horses are my favorite. I feel like it celebrates and symbolizes America’s wild youth, early history so well. I can’t wait to show it to my friend, Trisha, as she loves horses. By any chance, is it for sale?

    The photo of the two children climbing the steps reminds me of Hansel and Gretel. They are so endearing.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed these images, Monica. I thought of Hansel and Gretel too when I saw Franz’s photo of the two children.That image makes me smile. And yes, we do sell prints. Just email me directly and I can let you know the sizes and prices. As always, thanks for your comment.

  6. Beautiful photo, Becky. Of course, I immediately thought of my horse-enthusiast and budding photographer daughter! I’ll be sure to show her this.

    It makes such a difference to have someone believe in us, sometimes even before we believe in ourselves. Have you ever seen the movie, Portrait of Jennie, with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton? Your story of Franz and Jeffrey reminded me of gallery owner, Miss Spinney, and the young artist she encouraged, Eben Adams. She saw the spark of greatness in his work. It’s a wonderful film so if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

    Franz gave Jeffrey the gift of a peer’s acceptance, recognizing that he was already an artist in his own right. What a powerful reminder to the rest of us about how we, too, can transform another person’s life with our own words of belief and encouragement. Thanks for sharing their story with us, Becky.

    • Nancy, I’m glad you enjoyed this image. I hope your daughter does as well. I have not seen Portrait of Jennie, but is sounds like I should! Thanks for suggesting it. And yes, Franz will always be a wonderful reminder about encouraging somebody when you see potential. So many people think these things, but don’t always take that extra step to let the person know. I can make a huge difference in somebody’s confidence.

  7. Loved this blog. Franz Berko shot my first catalog in 1976 when I had no idea how important he was. A lovely human being! – The studio is now near Clark’s Market having moved from the purple Victorian several months ago. Too bad, as it was a perfect location to continue the legacy.

    • Wow! Lucky you! Franz was not one to talk about his accomplishments so it doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t know about his reputation (particularly since it was before the age of the internet). Oh, so sad to hear the studio moved from “our” purple Victorian. It was there last month when we were visiting. It must have just happened. Thanks for keeping me up to speed on things.

  8. The photo is great: your writing even better:
    Jeffrey has only owned a camera for a few years and is awash in enthusiasm for the art form
    hunkering down with a hot cup of coffee
    The wind is blowing, flakes are sailing, and the horses begin running
    He smiles and stammers
    “Our” purple Victorian will always hold sweet memories for us, and now it’s even more special because it holds the photographs

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