Fred Herzog (1930–2019)

Fred Herzog was born in Stuttgart in September 1930 and lived in Vancouver since the 1950s. He is regarded as one of the early pioneers of color photography. On Monday, Fred Herzog died shortly before his 89th birthday. 

"Fred Herzog was a flâneur with an eye for the essentials. His work is inextricably linked with 'New Color Photography' and has a firm place in the canon of photography history. Our thoughts are with his family and friends," says Hatje Cantz publisher Nicola von Velsen.

Herzog used color photography for his everyday observations long before the genre was recognized as a documentary or artistic stylistic device. Kodachrome film, introduced in 1935, was considered an amateur product for domestic slide shows until the 1960s. Herzog, however, opposed this view, adopting the tool early on.

In addition to the convenient handling of color film development, he was convinced by the ability to reproduce colors, textures, and moods in detail. Strolling, seeing and discovering were his passions. With a Kodak Retina I—and later a Leica M3—the German-born emigrant captured the urban life of the Canadian west coast in his free time. The everyday scenes of his adopted country, overlooked by most newspapers, attracted his photographic gaze: streets, sidewalks, shop windows and displays, poster advertisements, parking lots, and backyards—at times deserted or else populated by random passers-by.

One thing was particularly important in this approach: an inconspicuous camera. According to Herzog, people should not know that they are being photographed. He believed this is the only way to create good pictures. Herzog's concern was to capture real, unadulterated life: "I imagined how I might have to show people how the city once looked fifty or a hundred years later," the photographer said. He described with his pictures a great urban novel that understands the individual picture as part of the larger narrative and offers the cultural status quo its own place.

For a long time Herzog did not consider himself an artist, making his photographs after work in his spare time. The German-born artist earned his living as head of the photography and film department at the University of British Columbia (UBC). It was not until the end of the 1960s that Herzog became known by the media. Today, with his collection of over 100,000 color photographs, he is regarded as one of the driving forces behind "New Color Photography" avant la lettre.

September 12, 2019

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