Sunday, March 11, 2012

Photographer Profile ~ FRED HERZOG

Fred Herzog (b.1930, Germany) is a photographer known primarily for his photos of life in Vancouver, Canada. He worked professionally as a medical photographer. He was the associate director of the UBC Department of Biomedical Communication, and also taught at Simon Fraser University.

He grew up in Stuttgart, but was evacuated from the city during the aerial bombardment of the Second World War. His parents died during the war (of typhoid and cancer), after which he dropped out of school and found work as a seaman on ships. He emigrated to Canada in 1952, living briefly in Toronto and Montreal before moving to Vancouver in 1953. He had taken casual photos since childhood, and began to take it seriously after moving to Canada.

His work focuses primarily on "ordinary" people, the working class, and their connections to the city around them. He worked primarily with slide film (mostly Kodachrome), which limited his ability to exhibit, and also marginalized him somewhat as an artist in the 1950s and 60s when most work was in Black and White. However, he has been increasingly recognized in recent decades. His work has appeared in numerous books, and various galleries, including the Vancouver Art Gallery. [via wiki]

Mexico City with Chevy, 1963

Hezog: Lucy, Georgia, 1968

"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.'~ Fred Herzog

"Content cannot be manufactured, in my opinion. That which I can find is better than that which you can make. 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."
 ~ Herzog

Herzog on his 1960 photo of Bogner’s Grocery:

"That was off Oak street. The signs are a very very important pictorial part of the American city. I won’t even say pictorial, an important cultural part of the American city. If you take the Coca-Cola and other signs away from America downtown, you have nothing. Maybe some interesting architecture, but not very much."

"I take pride in saying these are all how we looked, not how we wanted to look, or staged. You cannot stage pictures. That is something I have many many times defended. People say ‘Well you can stage that.’ I say ‘No you cannot, and I can prove it to you.’ Many times over I’ve taken a second shot after [some] kids have seen me, and nothing. It’s a different picture." ~ Herzog

 U.R. Next Barber Shop:

"That was the best barber shop of all times. It was also the first [photo I took]. I couldn’t improve on it. Look at this, it’s almost like a Hollywood movie set, it’s beyond belief."

Herzog on the above photograph: "The White Lunch was an institution. I love things like that. The swirl of steam over the cup is pure genius. This is one of the better neon signs around. I’d go to the White Lunch. I can tell you what I ate there: braised sirloin tips and a custard pudding with a little bit of rice in the bottom."

 Car racing across the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks on the waterfront, just ahead of an oncoming train:

“Isn't that lovely, the train coming, the car crossing just in time. I  knew two people who died [in train/car crashes], two good acquaintances of mine, one a friend. I was in the fire department [in Germany] and our fire chief got killed just like that. Not in Vancouver, in my hometown in Germany.

 Herzog on his photo of the Neon jungle at Hastings and Carrall in 1958: 

"I don’t take credit for it looking like this. What I can’t believe is that there are no good pictures of that. That was a fabulous strip. I only took one picture. Not two or three for safety – I had no money for that.  So I had to know exactly how to expose it, take one picture, and hope it doesn’t get lost in the mail. And some got lost in the mail. I had to send [the Kodachrome film] to Kodak in another part of North America. They could get lost and they did get lost."

"When I see that now, I only have one slide of this. I think ‘How the hell did I not find the money to take two?’ Honestly, it was a question of eating, in those days. In those days, I put everything into photography, to the point where people said ‘This guy’s a neurotic.’"

Dapper black man walking in Chinatown in 1962 with his daughter and dog:

“I presume he was an employee of the CNR (Canadian National Railroad) He had his day off and went walking here with his daughter, dressed up beautifully. When I dressed up like that I looked like a bricklayer on Sunday, but he can pull it off with style.

"Kodachrome was the best film. I have to thank Kodak for making that product. Without that product, we would not have the pictures. Pictures that were taken on other films have suffered more than Kodachrome. Kodachrome was thought to last 50 years, and it has.” ~ Herzog 

“The jackpot is for 25 cents. Look at the size of the coin. You'd think she had won 250 grand. But there's five cents, and there's five cents and there's 10 cents. It's not big money.” ~ Herzog 

Herzog self portrait 1961

Advance to 11:23 for Herzog segment.

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