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George Karger

Time Period: 
1930s-50
Location: 
New York City
Biography: 

(1902-1973)

New York-based magazine photographer George Karger shared two passions: photography and magic. One of the stable of cameramen that the Pix Agency assembled in the late 1930s, Karger worked on assignment with Life Magazine, and later became Parade Magazine's staff photographer. His Life assignments included pictorial essays on American life and the entertainment world.

German born, he was working as a bank officer in Berlin when assigned to work as a similar capacity in a branch of the firm in Chicago. In 1930 he began experimenting with photography, particularly interested in photographic trickery. He began applying his insights to advertising photography. In 1935 he found that he earned more from his photography than his bank income, so quit the financial world. He provided some of the initial financial backing for the Pix Agency, a group of ex-patriate German photographers who fled Jewish persecution in Germany in 1935, and counted himself a member.

Karger's fascination with the performing world of magic and his own manic practice of the craft that had him increasingly assigned to cover stage shows. Among his most beloved work were his illustrations to George Starke's Stars of Magic, a serial publication of the writings of master magicians on professional practice circulated in the magic community in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1940s he opened an antique store in Manhattan. His stock included automata, old mechanisms, magic paraphernalia, and folk art.

NOTES: Charles D. Rice, "Trick Pix," Boston Herald (Nov 4, 1945), 20. Karger (intro) Anyone Can Take Good Pictures (David Kemp, 1940). Biography, Life (Aug 23, 1937), 66. David S. Shields/ALS

Specialty: 

Karger was obsessed with high speed photography. In part, this derived from his compulsion to capture in the instant the prestidigitation of magicians. It paid dividends in his ability to photograph dancers mid-flight, or the mobile instant on the stage. He was an active practitioner of color photography, some of which appeared in Life, and loved doing fashion shoots, particularly of hats and shoes.