Fred Herzog, iconic documentarian of Vancouver’s streets, dies at 88

Click to play video: 'From the archives: Profile of renowned street photographer Fred Herzog' From the archives: Profile of renowned street photographer Fred Herzog
WATCH: From the archives: Profile of renowned street photographer Fred Herzog – Sep 10, 2019

Fred Herzog, one of the country’s best-known street photographers, has died.

The 88-year-old passed away on Monday in Vancouver, according to the Equinox Gallery.

Herzog, who began shooting street scenes in 1952, has been celebrated for his iconic images of Vancouver which captured the city in its unvarnished and unguarded moments, often focusing on working-class subjects.

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“I’m not really that much of a photographer,” Herzog told BCTV, now Global News, in a 1994 interview.

“It’s not a question of learning all the techniques or learning composition or learning about the art of it. 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.”

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His work is also held up by many people as a key historical record of Vancouver in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Just an incredible document about changing cities, in particular Vancouver, in colour, which was incredibly rare,” said Equinox Gallery director Sophie Brodovictch.

“The fact that we have a body of street photography, in colour, that comes from our city … he was one of, you know, maybe a dozen people in the world working in colour in the 50s in terms of street photography. So that’s really rare.

Gallery: Click to see some of Fred Herzog’s iconic photos of Vancouver

Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
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Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.
Courtesy: Equinox Gallery.

Herzog, who was born in Stuttgart, Germany and emigrated to Canada in 1952, worked as a medical photographer by day.

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Herzog did not achieve major commercial success until late in life, with his first major retrospective shown at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007. Since then, he has shown several major exhibits in Canada and Germany, and released several books of photography.

He had a preference for Kodachrome slide film and has been lauded by the New York Times as “a pioneer who mastered color photography before such a thing respectively existed.”

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“The majority of his photographs are done on Kodachrome slide film which has this particular richness to it. The reds are just sort of extra velvety and there’s just something really particular to that colour,” said Brodovictch.

“Printing techniques of the time … just couldn’t reproduce those Kodachrome colours. 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.

This Canada Post stamp features Bogner’s Grocery, shot in 1960 by Fred Herzog. Handout/Global News

His legacy, however, is not without controversy. In 2012, he sparked backlash when he referred to the “so-called Holocaust” in an interview with the Globe and Mail, and expressed doubts about the extent of the genocide.

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That controversy appears not to have tarnished Herzog’s legacy, though.

Brodovictch said his body of work continues to attract fans, many of whom are not the traditional type to frequent an art gallery.

It’s pretty been pretty immense just from the number of people who come in and ask about his work and come to see his shows,” she said.

“When we had our first big show here of this work in 2012, people were coming in from Victoria, they were from coming from up north, they were bound and determined to see this show of his work.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that in any other show.”


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