Berry photos document an era

by Kelly Drobac

Farnham Galleries is currently displaying 40 black and white photographs depicting Indianola and Warren County’s most treasured spots from the 1920s through the 1940s as seen by journalist and photographer Don Berry.

Berry’s photographs show many different places in Indianola and Warren County. Viewers can see various Iowa landscapes, the Indianola town square, children at play and families of that era.

Many of his photographs show people doing everyday things in Iowa.

“Berry’s photographs are a compelling representation of historical Iowa,” junior Natalie Meier said.

“I think the people shown in the pictures almost reflect our ancestry. I really like the picture with the girl holding the turtle on the fishing pole. Her smile is cute and it is not a picture you would see everyday.”

Meier said the photos brought her back to a different time.

“I don’t know much about art,” she said, “but I found myself really looking at the photographs and letting my mind wander back to the old times in Indianola, Iowa.”

Berry was born on Oct. 8, 1880 in Indianola and came to Simpson in 1899.

He was actively involved in The Simpsonian and went on to work as a journalist for the Des Moines Register after graduating in 1903.

In 1944, Berry purchased The Herald and combined it into The Record-Herald and Indianola Tribune.

Berry died in 1974 at the age of 94, but he never lost his passion for journalism and photography.

Junior Katie Nelson said she really liked a picture titled “Blackhawk Lake.”

“It’s my favorite picture because the focal point is right on the little boy and he is not looking into the camera, which captures a daydreaming sense,” Nelson said. “It really is a peaceful picture. The lake is calm and the boy being off to the right side of the picture and looking out into the lake really offsets the picture and gives it a nice feel.”

A collection of 4,000 of Berry’s negatives was given to Simpson in 1974. A National Endowment for the Arts grant was recently given to Simpson in order to help the restoration and preservation of these photographs.

“He must have had a really nice camera,” Nelson said. “All the photographs are clean and you can see a clear focus in each picture.”

Associate Professor of Art David Richmond feels Berry’s photos are a representation of Indianola’s past.

“He was a journalist; his photographs are documents of a time that he photographed, mostly of Indianola and surrounding Iowa,” Richmond said. “They are a documentary of a period of time; they show an era. Compositionally, they are very interesting – interesting people and places.”

Nelson agrees with Richmond.

“His pictures have a lot of eye movement which keeps you interested in looking at them,” Nelson said. “And all of his pictures are full of images which leave no room for negative space in the photographs.”

Richmond notes the importance of the NEA grant to help restore and display the photographs at Simpson.

“I think it’s wonderful that Simpson got the NEA grant,” he said. “Only two grants were given out in Iowa and we were one of them.”

Berry’s photographs will be on display in Farnham Galleries until Monday, Jan. 30.

They are shown Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Joseph Walt, senior professor emeritus of history, will present the lecture “Don Berry, Iowan” at 7:30 tonight in Camp Lounge of the Brenton Student Center.