Few other bodies of photography in the history of the medium have come close to the richness of Herzog’s extended city portrait.
– David Campany
Equinox Gallery is pleased to present Fred Herzog: A Life in Pictures, an exhibition of vintage photographs and cameras from the artist’s personal archive. Born in Germany in 1930, Herzog emigrated to Canada in the early 1950s and settled in Vancouver where, in 1953, he began recording this city through photographs made on walks through the city. A self-taught photographer, Herzog did not start to earn his living from photography until a few years later in 1957, when he began working as a medical photographer at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, an occupation he continued until 1990. Over the course of several decades, Herzog remained virtually unknown until technological advances allowed him to make archival pigment prints that matched the intensity and quality of the kodachrome film slides.
No other artist has chronicled Vancouver’s urban life as comprehensively and with such sustained insight as Herzog. He purchased his first camera in Germany at the age of 21, a Kodak Retina 1, which he knew about from his father who worked at Kodak during the war. Some of Herzog’s earliest photographs in Vancouver were taken on the Retina 1, but this model had a slow lens speed and did not contain a rangefinder and consequently, he favoured using the Lecia C for street photography as it was small and pocketable. He used different lenses while working in low light and crowded locations, all the while producing images that achieve a rare balance of composition and spontaneity. Bringing together early black and white images developed in the artist’s personal darkroom, never before seen images from the artist’s time at St. Paul’s and his pioneering colour street photography, Fred Herzog: A Life in Pictures celebrates Fred Herzog’s understanding of the medium combined with the ability of photography to show “how you see and how you think”.
A retrospective exhibition, Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs, was held at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007 and was the first major recognition of Herzog’s body of work. Herzog exhibited his work both nationally and internationally, including the exhibitions Fred Herzog: Photographs, C/O Berlin, Germany (2010), Fred Herzog: A Retrospective, Equinox Gallery, Vancouver (2012), Eyes Wide Open! 100 Years of Leica Photography, Haus der Photographie, Hamburg, Germany (2015), Photography in Canada, 1960-2000, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2017), and many others. In 2010, Herzog received a Honourary Doctorate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and in 2014 he received the Audain Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts. In 2014, Herzog’s photograph Bogner’s Grocery (1960) was released as a limited-edition stamp as part of Canada Post’s Canadian Photography series.
Fred Herzog passed away on September 9, 2019 in Vancouver at the age of 88.