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Fred Herzog: Modern Color

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In this respect, his photographs can be seen as prefiguring the New Color photographers of the 1970s. 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. 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. The real pioneer of the medium seems to change depending on whom you ask (most people, perhaps rightly, would say William Eggleston) but let’s allow some space for another name: Fred Herzog.

Roger Bamber’s 50-year career spanned everything from the Falklands War to Live Aid, but it was in his home city that he found most of his inspiration, as Ailsa McWhinnie discovers.

Herzog’s work has much in common with William Eggleston, who eschewed big scenes in favour of the quotidian. Fred Herzog is the most comprehensive publication on the work of this important photographer to date. 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. 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.

There’s defiance in the work of Herzog, whose images focused largely on the working class of Vancouver, Canada. In this respect, his photographs can be seen as a pre-figuration of the New Color photographers of the seventies. Fred Herzog is known for his unusual use of colour in the fifties and sixties, a time 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. This monograph brings together more than 230 recordings, many of which have never been reproduced before, and also includes contributions from celebrated authors such as David Campany and Hans-Michael Koetzle.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. The Canadian photographer worked almost exclusively 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. Scenes of society in the macrocosm, rather than showing us nothing, showed us everything: race relations, urban alienation, gender politics and class distinctions.

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