A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1982, Burger went on to hone his trade at the Baltimore City Paper and the Baltimore Sun. “I had dreams of becoming an illustrator when I started at the Maryland Institute College of Art, but an instructor named Richard Kirstel had other ideas,” Burger recalls. “Under his mentorship I developed what can best be described as my style… and in 1988, I got my dream job. The Baltimore Sun had an opening for a photographer in their marketing department and I was recruited. Full time newspaper jobs were never plentiful, and finding one was the brass ring. For 10 years I'd wake up in the morning and I couldn't wait to go to work.” A Charmed Life explores this period thoroughly, covering a detailed look at a typical day in the life of the paper, and including the production day for the final edition of the Evening Sun in 1995.
As a freelance photographer, Burger’s personal approach to every assignment mandated that he never give less than his fullest attention to the subject and his job. “I didn’t think anything could be better than working for the Sun, but freelance is. My time is my own, I pick and choose my clients, and I can do my own work.” Over the course of his career, he worked for clients as varied as AARP, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the Lou Gehrig’s Disease Association, Lockheed-Martin, McCormick Spice, and TransAmerica.
As a photojournalist his work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The San Francisco Examiner, the Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. But his true love is Baltimore, and the walls of the exhibition are filled images of its hidden beauty and charm: Women wait patiently under hair dryers at a Highlandtown salon. A young man sells cotton candy outside a Camden Yards restroom. Horseplayers watch a race, as hope fades. And Orioles fans file out of Memorial Stadium, one day to never return.
In addition to his photography, Burger has also worked as a writer for local publications, and has collaborated on many books, including a book on the Baltimore City Fire Department; “…In Service.” He also partnered with Baltimore Sun food writer Rob Kasper, and Baltimore Orioles legendary first baseman, Boog Powell, to publish “Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing,” and “Baltimore Baseball and Barbeque with Boog Powell.” He was a commissioned photographer for “America 24/7: 24 Hours. 7 Days. Extraordinary Images of One American Week.” Upon release in 2003 the book shot to #1 on the New York Times Bestselling List. The artist is also a three-time recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Grant.
A Charmed Life
A Special Evening with Jim Burger: Presented by the Baltimore Creative Alliance on November 8, 2018 as part of my Retrospective. I talked about my career, told the stories behind some of my photographs, and answered questions from the audience.