Book Review: Fred Herzog: Photographs

Maturing Canadian commonplace

What a wonderful selection of photos. The majority of the ninety-two images are of Vancouver in the sixties though the last photo in the book was taken in 1984. It's the color in these photos that fascinated me. Herzog used Kodachrome slide film and the colors have a warmth and maturity that definitely adds to their beauty, especially the incredibly vibrant reds. The only other photo book I've seen with this richness of colour is Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43 with work from the well known FSA/OWI photographers.

Herzog was experimenting with color long before it became accepted, in the mid-seventies, as a serious photographic form (interestingly the book's first pages have five lovely black and whites). The Vancouver color photos are all street scenes showing everyday life with traffic, shoppers, sides of buildings, and lots of signs. He says that the work of Walker Evans influenced him especially the 'American photographs' book and of course Robert Frank. There are many shots that are saturated with signage typography and Vancouver did a nice line in gigantic upright neon signs spelling out the name of movie houses, a sort of electronic Day-Glo.

Besides the photos there is an illustrated essay in the front of the book and a conversation between Stephen Waddell with Herzog in the back pages, these are in German and English. This is a five star book regarding the contents (and printed with a 200 screen) but I was disappointed that it wasn't a landscape size photo book. Putting these great photos into a book a bit bigger than eight by seven inches seems a mistake. The landscape shots obviously go over the gutter and other landscape photos on single pages really should have been bigger. Herzog's photos are crammed with detail and it really needs a bigger format to appreciate his work. A much larger book would solved this.

Despite the size problem I thought this a wonderful book of amazing color photos. Herzog definitely needs a second volume.

Fred Herzog: Photographs is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN)

Fred Herzog: Photographs - 01
A spread from the sixteen page essay in the front pages. German on the left and English on the right.

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Granville and Robson Streets, 1959. Amazing cinema neon signs.

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Two classics from 1960. Kadachrome must have helped the reds along.

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Sign saturation.

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