Legendary Packers photographer honored with exhibit

CREATED Nov. 25, 2012

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GREEN BAY - If you enjoy NFL history, you're going to love a new exhibit at the Packers Hall of Fame.

The exhibit honors longtime official team photographer Vern Biever, who passed away in 2010.

Biever was with the organization for more than 60 years and chronicled the history of the Green Bay Packers from Lombardi to McCarthy. The temporary exhibit, called "The Man Behind the Camera: The Life and Work of Vern Biever," includes dozens of rare pictures, press passes and memorabilia. Biever's originial darkroom is there too, taken directly from his basement in Port Washington.

Jim and John Biever are Vern's sons.

They both followed their father's love of the lens. Jim is now the Packers' photographer. John shoots for Sports Illustrated.

The two walked through the exhibit with TODAY'S TMJ4's Jessie Garcia.

"These are some of his photo passes, he probably shot over 1,000 games," John says. He was proud of the fact that the New York Times did an article on him that ran right before the Super Bowl in New Orleans."

Their favorite part is Vern's darkroom.

"He used to say he could turn out more pictures than the Time Life photo lab," John says.

"As a little boy I can remember peeking over the counter. Very emotional [being here], actually, we spent so much time down there."

There is also a recreation of Vern's "Game Day Wardrobe" and the slide room where he would drink a martini while working.

Vern once took a picture of his own father.

"He's with Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron at the old County Stadium. One of his favorites was from the second Super Bowl--Lombardi being carried off the field. The first Super Bowl he has a picture of Lombardi getting the trophy from Pete Rozelle. He enjoyed feature photography--if he could have shot a whole game with hands, feet and helmets he would have. There's something about black and white pictures that has a staying power; also mud, they don't make mud anymore because fields are too antiseptic. Another favorite is the sweep with Lombardi in the background."

Vern was never sure if Lombardi liked or accepted him. That's until a letter arrived thanking Biever for some photos he had sent.

"He crossed out where the secretary had written 'Dear Mr. Biever' and changed it to 'Dear Vern.' That letter showed him he was indeed accepted."

There are dozens of rare shots from this man who had his priorities straight in his head.

"He once said family, Port Washington--he loved Port Washington--and the Packers were number three in that group. Packers fans young and old are lucky to have had someone like Vern Biever who kept a close history of the team. It's legendary. A lot of teams don't have this record of the past. He was lucky and the Packers were lucky. It went both ways."

The exhibit will run until sometime this spring.