Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fred Herzog - early colour

Now 76, Fred Herzog began photographing Vancouver in the late 50's. In some ways a classic Street Photographer, Herzog did one thing that was different - he worked seriously in colour. He has a dazzling collection of photographs and clearly, very early on, had come to grips with many of the aspects of working in colour that weren't trumpeted elsewhere until perhaps 10 or 15 years later. He has a grasp of colour that in many ways preceeds the likes of Shore and even Eggleston.

He also expresses some interesting views on photography (the whole article is a good fun read)

"Photographic finesse has its place, but it can also get in the way. I was trying to show vitality. The pictures are about content, and more content. And if there is no content, take no picture."It’s exactly the other way around now. 'Okay I’m going to take my clothes off, and I’m going to stand there in the nude, and I’m going to try and look lonely or profound.'

• On choosing documentary street photography: "Nobody did that even in the U.S.A. I have often looked at American yearbooks and things, the American Photography colour yearbook, that was a big thing, I bought those. But they’re full of pretty pictures of women, some of them naked, some of them beautiful. Even the ones who are not naked look beautiful to me. Perhaps it’s my age. But there was no street photography. None done. And I did that, and I did it with a passion, and I did it with variety. You can see that now in the pictures."

• On shooting in colour, at a time when all serious art photography was done in black and white:"First of all when you do black and white all have is the basic resource, a negative. That needs a lot of dancing around the darkroom and time and patience and energy. You should ideally be a man of leisure,an English gentleman. And a lot of English gentlemen did serious and beautiful photography. "But I didn’t have time for that. That’s one reason I did colour slides. I’d get 36 slides back, beautiful, finish.”"

• On street photography and digital technology:"Timing in photography is almost everything. You have to pay attention to where the light comes from, you have to pay attention to your background. If your background is too loud, or makes too much of itself...that’s the problem of the photographic process. It records everything that’s in the viewfinder, whether it’s important or not.""All the good pictures that didn’t turn out good, it’s because of the background or because the light comes from one side or some other technical glitch. That’s the grace of these modern digital cameras.First of all everything that can go wrong is taken care of automatically. A person who’s completely ignorant of the photographic process can take photos."

"And I say that respectfully. You don’t have to know anything, you press the button and you get a beautiful picture. That’s how it works out now. This is enormous progress. Because of that you’ll see now a flood of good pictures which we never dreamed we would see. I already get them in the e-mail."

Still going strong, there is a major of his work show currently up at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & Mcintyre has published a book of his work.


Anonymous said...

Thank you to point me on the work of
Frank Herzog and makes me discover this photographer...
That makes my day !
Nathalie at

tim atherton said...

thanks nathalie!

Anonymous said...

Looks beautiful.