Born 1937 in Denmark — Marianne Engberg was apprenticed as a portrait photographer with Ely Foto in Hillerød, Denmark in the 1950s. In the 1960s, she worked as a fashion photographer for Vogue in London, J.F. Smith Studio in New York, and as a travel photographer in South America for the Safari Magazine. In the 1970s, she ran her own photography studio in Manhattan. She began experimenting with pinhole photography in the 1960s, and had her first exhibition as a Fine Art photographer with the Bertha Urdang Gallery, Manhattan in 1984. In the 1980s, Marianne Engberg travelled the world with her pinhole camera, and exhibited images from Israel, Greenland, China and Scotland. In her 1990s pinhole series “Shells & Flora”, she increasingly developed her pinhole method into almost abstract micro photography, focusing on shapes and lines. From 1991 to 2002 she was represented by Staley Wise Gallery, Manhattan. In 1999, the National Museum of Denmark showed a large retrospective of her work. After her shift to unique photograms – resulting from the experimental “Photosynthetism” process in the darkroom – she was represented by John Stevenson, Manhattan. Most recently, Engberg has shown her work in two solo shows at Steven Harris Architects, New York (2013, 2014), at Stensalen, Copenhagen in the exhibition Pinhole and Multigraph (2014) together with images by Richard Winther, and in the large retrospective Lys (2014) at Museumsbygningen – Banja Rathnov, Copenhagen. In 2015, works by Marianne Engberg were included in the group exhibition Det kameraløse fotografi at Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen.
Marianne Engberg lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Marianne Engberg’s work has been exhibited around the world and is held by major collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Public Library, the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), and the Fogg Museum (Boston), as well as the private collection of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Several articles have been published about her work, among others in Art News, Fine Art Photography, The New York Times, The Village Voice, magasinet kunst and RUM. Her life as a photographer has been portrayed in the oral history book “ET LIV MED LYS – En bog om fotografen Marianne Engbergs liv med fotografiet” by the acclaimed Danish writer Pia Juul (Tiderne Skifter, 2011).
The focal point of Marianne Engberg’s artistic interest is and has always been light—ranging from her trademark pinhole photography and her unique photogram experiments to her soft floating sculptures so delicate that the light slips through their smooth surface. In her latest body of work, ELLUSION , she creates paper sculptures with the sole purpose of photographing them from dusk to dawn, observing the changes in light. She gradually opens and alters the paper constructions, and takes photos of the way the light bounces off them. When she is done with photographing, the small sculptures are destroyed.
A further significant characteristic of Engberg’s artwork may not manifest itself as visibly, yet in regard to her working method, it forms a quintessential feature: ingenuity. Marianne Engberg approaches each new group of works like a researcher going about a scientific experiment. Her traditional professional apprenticeship as a photographer in the 1950s has given her a profound, one might say old-school, understanding of technical processes, timing and lighting conditions, and the impact of chemicals and temperature in the darkroom. She often takes months and months to arrive at the perfect procedural solution for creating the image she has in mind. This curiosity and persistence — along with her technical skills — make out the driving forces of Marianne Engberg’s work.