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Fred Herzog: Modern Color

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Those images, taken through a camera that possessed only a primitive peephole viewfinder, were lost some years later as Herzog travelled to Canada on a rust-bucket ship that apparently nearly sank. Fred Herzog is known for his distinctive approach to color photography in the 1950s and 1960s, a time when the art form was almost solely represented by black and white imagery.

For over fifty years, the Canadian photographer exclusively used Kodachrome slide film, and only in the last decade have advances in technology enabled the production of archival pigment prints that faithfully match the remarkable color and vibrancy of the Kodachrome slides. In the 1950s and 1960s, many in the art world didn’t take color photography seriously, considering it amateurish and garish. That which we find, the work and the use of the people out there, it’s natural, that’s what ordinary people do, that interests me.It’s impossible to sum up all of the heartfelt passions of the artists in the pages or a gallery exhibit of Walks to the Paradise Garden.

Herzog started taking pictures in Germany in 1950 where, as part of a youth group who every summer went hiking in the Alps, he was given a Kodak Retina I camera. However, technology only allowed him to make archival pigment prints that match the color and intensity of the Kodachrome slide in the past decade. The Canadian photographer worked largely with Kodachrome slide film for over 50 years, and only in the past decade has technology allowed him to make archival pigment prints that match the exceptional color and intensity of the Kodachrome slide, making this an excellent time to reevaluate and reexamine his work. Fred Herzog is known for his unusual use of colour in the 50s and 60s, when art photography was almost exclusively associated with black and white imagery. It was through focusing on the everyday in the US that Eggleston was able to reveal the deeper truths of the world.They come from that process of walking and that intuitive, deductive reasoning of where to be and how to take a picture when you’re there,” said Andy Sylvester, owner of the Equinox Gallery in Vancouver. This book brings together over 230 images, many never before reproduced, and features essays by acclaimed authors David Campany, Hans-Michael Koetzle and artist Jeff Wall. Herzog also had the vision, and courage, to shoot in color when virtually all serious art photography was in black and white.

Take a stroll through Herzog’s streets and you find a place awash with neon signs, Coca-Cola adverts, yellow light against thick shadow, vintage cars, billboards and the rest. Herzog’s big breakout occurred late in life when The Vancouver Art Gallery held the first major retrospective of his work in 2007: Fred Herzog Vancouver Photographs curated by Grant Arnold. Professionally employed as a medical photographer, he spent his evenings and weekends photographing the city and its inhabitants in vibrant color.In this respect, his photographs can be seen as a pre-figuration of the New Color photographers of the seventies.

Furthermore, his shots were taken using mostly Kodachrome slide film, meaning he was limited in terms of actually getting to exhibit his images in public. In this respect, his photographs can be seen as an early indication of the "New Color" photographers of the seventies.What was striking to Herzog at this time was that he was beginning to identify a genre that had perhaps not yet found its definition: street photography.

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