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Remembering Fred Herzog Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

11 September 2019

Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog, who was one of the earliest to explore artistic expression with color photography, died on Monday. He was only weeks away from his 89th birthday.

He was born in Stuttgart, Germany but fled the city as a boy during the bombing of World War II. Neither of his parents survived the war. After dropping out of school he got a job as a merchant marine, which led to his emigration to Canada in 1952.

It was only after he had moved to Canada that his childhood interest in taking photos of landscapes and travel destinations became a serious interest in photography. He began shooting street photography in 1952 as a diversion from his day job as a medical photographer for local hospitals and the University of British Columbia.

He was most interested in capturing the working class people he saw as he passed by them on his walks around Vancouver. He counted Walker Evans and Robert Frank among his influences. But he didn't believe he himself was "much of a photographer," as he put it in a 1994 television interview.

'I think what is important is that you are out there as a person and relate to those objects and those people who intrigue you.'

"It's not a question of learning all the techniques or learning composition or learning about the art of it," he said. "I think what is important is that you are out there as a person and relate to those objects and those people who intrigue you."

His Kodachrome street photography of Vancouver in the 1950s and 1960s are "an incredible document about changing cities," Sophie Brodovictch, director of Equinox Gallery which represents him, said.

"The fact that we have a body of street photography, in color, that comes from our city ... he was one of, you know, maybe a dozen people in the world working in color in the '50s in terms of street photography. So that's really rare," she added.

His first major retrospective was at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007 when he was 76 years old. The long delay can be explained by his preference for Kodachrome.

"Printing techniques of the time just couldn't reproduce those Kodachrome colors," Brodovictch explained. "So he patiently just filed his slides in his basement and waited for technology to catch up to show what he wanted to see in a tangible paper or printed format."

He had several major exhibits in Canada and Germany and published several books of his photography. In 2014, he received the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts.

But he found Vancouver growing less colorful over the years. "It's boring now," he said, "because when you walk down the street you see only a gray concrete building with aluminum trimmings and a neat sign which you've already seen 200 times before because it's part of a chain of dry cleaners or banks or sandwich shops."

Herzog is survived by his daughter Ariane and son Tyson. His wife Christel died in 2013.

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