Fred Herzog: Comprehensive Body of Work – Accumulation and Series

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Fred Herzog

I came across Fred Herzog’s work today through an Art Daily post about an up coming exhibition entitled: Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs – to be held January 25 to May 13, 2007 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Howe and Nelson
Fred Herzog

The work shown on his website resonated with me in a number of ways. Looking at the portfolio of selected images – and reading about some 80,000 images collected over the span of some 50 years coupled with Herzog’s own bold opening sentence on his website…

The only comprehensive body of documentary/art photography of Vancouver in existence

Now that’s a pretty tall expectation to fill…. I suspect it’s the easy confidence a 76 year old perspective on life.

This appears to be re-post of a write up about the work in the Vancouver Sun.

I find value in a body of work that develops over a time perspective -It challenges me to think about how the “reading” of an images changes – what does it show us. Does the images we see open our perceptions up differently about the here and now just from looking at the then and there?

This statement in Hertzog’s biography – poignant:

The images are not about important people, events or edifices, but about the vitality of the city, it’s ambiance, and the daily activities of the people.

Looking at a subject repeatedly over time, in this case a photographer’s view upon aspects of “the vitality of the city”…. what intrigues me about this is the historical look. I wonder what it is really that attracts me to this kind of image – nostalgia? (Can’t be that really, I’m not old enough) or is it sentimental….. or is there something else in the images that speaks to my sensibility of what I imagine is civic vitality?

I like the idea of picturing change over the span of 50 years in one area that you reside – now that sounds like it should be interesting! But the hard part – sustaining the work…. I wonder what it should look like? I guess one has to be patient. I have to I think it’s more about a gradual accumulation of stories over time.

Bookshop Main
Fred Herzog

Finding Herzog’s photos is a happy coincidence to my own recent post wondering about questions of cultural background (the visiting outsider vs. the hometown inhabitant) influencing the photographer’s eye. I think there is something to being a bit slower in drawing conclusions. But my bias lies with the insider.

Finding patience.

I find lately that I tend to favor photographer’s work (documentary genera) that is the result of being an insider’s view and has some historical distance. I think (this is from the gut now)… a lot of contemporary photography is either just too close to what feels like (lacking any better articulation) “an ordinary now” or that the contemporary work is subtle enough that I miss the point of it. Either way, this perception will inevitably become something else with the passage of time…. it’s just difficult to build an appreciation of the “ordinary now”. I like to try and understand what it is in photographs that appeal to me – as opposed to being seduced with the attention grabbing “freak” factor…(which seems to be a lot of the “contemporary” work out there).

For me, figuring out and deciding where the value lies – why a picture might be worth looking at to me – lies mostly within the immediate image – what’s interesting is seeing the effects of time upon the perception of these things.

More images here by Fred Horzog – represented by Equinox Gallery


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