BERKOVIC BEHIND THE SCENES: “My backstage photography started with a stripper.”
Pamela Berkovic was unabashed about how her career has played out. “Then it evolved into fashion, theater, movies, ballet, the opera, but that’s how it started,” she said.
Referring to one of her favorite photos on view in New York, Berkovic said it took “months and months” to shoot the stripper, who also worked as a makeup artist. That’s how much time was needed for the woman to become comfortable and confident enough to give Berkovic the respect to go backstage at the underground strip club in Brussels. “I had three hours. There was a pimp and a lot of strange things going on. The pimp was yelling at the girls, yelling at me,” she said. “I was 20 years old. I brought my father and said, ‘Dad, you stay upstairs with your friends in case something happens. We didn’t have cellphones 20 years ago obviously. But it went well.”
She said, “I tried to repeat this when I came to New York, but New York is such a difficult environment to get into those worlds.”
Her father Charles, an artist in his own right, was in the room of well-wishers including Charlotte Sarkozy, Patrick Timsit, Dinah Emsalem, Jill Kargman, Olivier Giugni and Mark Connolly at Friday’s opening of “Pamela Berkovic: A Woman’s Eye” on the Upper East Side. Berkovic’s daughter, Elle Rose, made a beeline for Thom Browne, who had his dachshund in tow. The youngster is building her own photography following on Instagram.
Her mother said, “As a woman photographer, I always wanted to show the strength and beauty in women. I never ask them to pose. Nothing is posed. Even when I stage them, I want to show something in the moment, something very natural. I photograph mostly women, very little men. I think I will get to men later.”
Whenever Berkovic does a portrait she tells her subject that she will need three hours. They will ask, “Why do you need three hours for one portrait?” and I always say, ‘I need three hours because you have to know me and I have to know you. And the picture will take five minutes.’” she said. “They don’t understand this in the beginning but after a while, they get it. The last five minutes of the three hours they give me is when I can get out everything — their personality, weakness, strongness and beauty.”
Wearing a black sleeveless Sacai dress and red patent stilettos, she said, “When you can bring something out of someone in a picture that you didn’t know, and they didn’t know could come out, that makes a strong picture, not a good picture — a strong picture.”
Passing through the gallery, she said the larger prints on view make her really love a shot of a model wearing a turqoise Zac Posen gown. The shot reminds her of Flemish paintings, and as an Antwerps native it resonates.
She now plans to turn her focus to ballerinas and the ballet. Having befriended so many ballerinas from Paris and New York, the photographer said, “It’s such a beautiful performance. It looks so easy and it’s so difficult. There is such a discipline which I admire so much.”
Berkovic said, “I don’t like to always be too fashion. There is a fashion to it, but it’s more about the personality of the person who you are photographing than fashion or the clothes. But the clothes make it sometimes look more glamorous and appealing.”