Ian Berry was born in Preston, Lancashire. After studying modern languages, he worked as a journalist on a local newspaper before becoming disillusioned and emigrating to South Africa. He worked on a local newspaper in Johannesberg as a photographer, before setting up his own studio. He later worked for Drum magazine, edited by Tom Hopkinson and was the only photographer to record the Sharpville Massacre in 1960. Ian Berry left South Africa in 1961, relocating to Paris a year later where he became an associate member of Magnum. On his return to England, five years later, he became a full member.