Four Inane Questions with photographer Ron Berg

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No matter what’s in front of photographer Ron Berg’s camera—a model, a fruit plate, a model eating a fruit plate—he’s bound to turn it into a work of art. Berg snapped his first pic more than 20 years ago here in the metro. Before long, he had honed his skills and found his niche in commercial advertising. His work has been seen in countless nationally recognized ad campaigns and magazines ranging from Esquire and Forbes to Vogue and InStyle. (Yeah, let’s throw in The Wall Street Journal for good measure.)

Today, the serial shutterbug and entrepreneur shoots both video and stills and says he’s become known for his attention to detail and steady demeanor. Early last year, he joined yet another powerhouse agency, Walz Tetrick Advertising, and now helms their start-up production firm, TorchHouse Studio

We caught up with the cameraman extraordinaire to inundate him with our litany of lame-o questions. Bless his heart—he couldn’t answer until he set up a key, fill, and backlight over the desk where he was sitting. 

The Pitch: You can be a backup singer for any band. Who are you choosin’?

Ron Berg: Trust me, you don’t want me singing. I would normally say let me command the cowbell.  

But I would choose The Go-Go’s for a few reasons. For one, I would need to be their backup trumpet player, since we played a Go-Go’s song in marching band. And second, they also happen to be my first concert. So, our stars definitely align. Can you hook that gig up for me?

When owning cameras, how many cameras are too many cameras?

Well, funny that you ask. Over the years, family and friends would give me their antique family cameras, or they’d give me some cheap ones from estate sales. That led to me amassing a few hundred. I recently gave most of those to a friend, and they made the trek across the country to his shop in San Fran. I hope they all find great homes. 

They ranged in age from the early 1900s to the 1990s. I kept about 20 that were interesting or had sentimental value to me. 

In terms of using cameras for our studio? We have 10-ish that bridge the gap from high-end to professional/consumer, to Drones and Go-Pros. But you can’t beat that one you have in your hand right now. I love them all for different reasons. 

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Courtesy photo

What’s the best spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff photo you’ve ever accidentally taken?

I think it’s the street studio portraits I’ve taken over the years, which led to doing approximately 500 for New York Magazine for Kentucky Derby fashion a few years ago.

Although they occur in a set-up outdoor make-shift studio on the street, you must think quickly on your feet. I only shoot about 10 frames or less of each subject and try to capture those spontaneous moments in 1-2 minutes max. It’s a great exercise on not overthinking and going with your gut while, at the same time, not letting them look like “red carpet” photos. It’s a fine line between capturing that decisive moment.

You can pick any well-known photographer to shoot your new headshot. Who you pickin’?

It would be easy for me to say Avedon, Penn, Newton, or, more contemporarily, Leibovitz. 

But it would have to be Cindy Sherman. 

She’s not that well-known outside of art circles or museum-goers. We studied her extensively in school. Her photography consists primarily of self-portraits (i.e., selfies before there was such a thing in theory). They depicted her in many different scenarios, styles, and as many diverse characters. FILM STILLS was her infamous break-out series of photos representing stereotypical feminine roles. If I could get her to take my portrait of me, that would be special—plus, I’ve always wanted to meet her.

Bonus 5th Question: What’s the world’s worst breakfast cereal? 

Can I say there are no bad ones? It might be crazy to say, but I love them all! Sugary and unhealthy. Whole grain and healthy. Dry or soggy. 

And yes, I like to drink the milk. And I love it with cow, soy, almond, and coconut milks. And it’s always hard for me to just have one bowl. I’m now drooling. I’m gonna head out now to go have a bowl of cereal!

Categories: Culture