Steven Berger of Mattituck, who went from a long and successful career as a broadcasting executive to becoming one of the most celebrated and admired photographers on the East End of Long Island, died Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at San Simeon by the Sound Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Greenport at the age of 78.
Like his hero, famed American landscape photographer Ansel Adams, Mr. Berger was noted for his dramatic black-and-white images, drawing enthusiastic audiences to his one-man shows. He also published two volumes of photographs featuring scenes — some familiar, others offbeat, even quirky — of his beloved North Fork.
One of his most famous photographs showed an empty chair sitting alone along a row of grape vines, which he titled “Waiting for Merlot.” The photo and title were typical of his wit and engaging sense of humor.
For many years, he taught the art of photography to high school students, who came each week to his house, which featured a darkroom he arranged to have built. Not that he disparaged digital cameras, but he wanted his young students to also become proficient in taking pictures with film and learning how to develop them.
He didn’t get paid for teaching. In fact, an example of his generosity in so many areas, he actually paid the students to attend his classes in order to relieve them of other obligations and ensure they would take their lessons seriously.
Several of the students he mentored went on to become successful photographers in their own right, including David Benthal, the awarded-winning photographer for the northforker, a magazine published by Times Review Media Group.
Upon graduating from Temple University in 1966, Mr. Berger was hired as a disc jockey at a radio station in Pittsburgh. That job ultimately led to his being named president and chief executive officer of a radio network owned by the Nationwide Insurance Company, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. It was there he met and married Ellen Eberle.
After retiring from Nationwide in 1999, he and Ellen moved to the North Fork, where he was free to pursue taking pictures full time, an interest he had pursued earnestly even as a teenager in Atlantic City, N.J., where he was born on March 12, 1944, the son of Albert and Mary (Paul) Berger.
He is survived by his wife, Ellen Eberle Berger, well known for her active involvement in a broad range of local charities and causes, and a daughter from a previous marriage, Clare Berger, of St. Louis.
A gathering to remember Steve is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, July 18, at Jamesport Meeting House.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the North Fork Animal Welfare League would be appreciated.
This is a paid notice.