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Friday, 04 July 2008


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My copy arrived earlier this week and I've been looking at Fred Herzog's photos frequently. I also enjoyed the two essays in the book, and the interview with the photographer where he mentions the novels and novelists that influenced his work. There's a link to the interview here:


I like how he works with colours and reflections (particularly from rainy surfaces). Some of his photos reminded me of work by Caillebotte -- this painting, for example:


I also enjoyed the shadows that he makes an integral part of his compositions. If this were merely a collection of photos, it would be a wonderful book, but the essays and interview help put Fred Herzog's work into context.

I just received the book a few days ago. And it immediately became one of my all-time favorites.

There are so many things I can say about this collection, but Herzog's mastery of urban light and color is incredible. And the reproductions are superb. I wish I could have seen the 2007 Vancouver show.


You may be jumping the gun here. I ordered from Amazon.ca the day of your posting and am still waiting on delivery and I live in Canada. Not sure how the other readers may be making out but if they are also waiting there may be few responses.

Since you ask, Mike, last saturday I bought the Spanish new reprint of Frank's "The Americans". Liked it. Really.

this is my first time posting a comment, but have been "tuning in" daily for a number of months now (obviously because I enjoy your blog).

was fortunate to see the Herzog exhibition in Vancouver when it was there last year, and purchased the book from the Vancouver art gallery. It is one of my favourite photography books. Toronto is home. Street photography is the photographic genere I enjoy (along with others). I purchased the Helen Levitt book on your recommendation (which I also thoroughly enjoy) and was one of the first to preorder the reissue of "The Americans".

but to answer your question, I love the Herzog book...

Ordered from "in stock" on 6/21. Amazon.ca now states it won't be shipped until 7/11 or later. I wait...

There was a show of Fred's work up in a New York gallery recently, which I saw. The images were spectacular. Some of them reminded me of the paintings of Edward Hopper. There was also one of the photos in the New Yorker, in the "Goings on About Town" section, which is what attracted me to his work. When I saw your bit, I decided to order from Amazon Canada. Hasn't shipped, and the status shown is delivery mid to late July! What's with this? Anyway, I will comment when I finally get the book!

I found Herzog's book in a library and many of his photos on the web. Herzog is very good at conveying feeling and sense of place. His use of light, color and composition definitely gets my attention.

These two in particular appeal to me:



My takeaway is that it would have been difficult to make images this effective without color.

I had the pleasure of seeing Hertzog's show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was the first time such a large number of his color photos had been shown. Hertzog has commented that with the advent of quality inkjet printing it was now financially possible to print a large number of the transparencies he had accumulated over his years of shooting. I was born in Vancouver in the 50’s, but did not really appreciate the beauty of the streets around me. Thankfully Fred Hertzog appreciated the beauty and had the ability to capture these wonderful images.

It is on my coffee table, along with "The Americans" and Steiglitz. I love it, I now want to scan my old Kodachromes.

Mike, it did not arrive here in Amsterdam. I'm looking forward to it.

I got earlier this week on your recommendation, and am very pleased I did.

It's well put together, with good introductory essays and a decent interview with the photographer.

The pictures are good too. There are really only one or two shots that I think I would've immediately passed over as being sub-par if I were looking at a Flickr stream rather than a book I had shipped all the way from Canada to London. I like the distinct Kodachrome palette, the perfect antidote to today's overabundance of digital colour.

It's fascinating to read that he made all this work at a time when it must've been very expensive and technically difficult, and that he did so whilst doing other things and raising a family. All that, plus the fact that he's only now receiving this recognition so late in life, is very encouraging.

Thanks for the recommendation, Mike.

I've not ordered the Herzog book (not available in the UK), but I did recently get the new edition of 'The Americans', which is a beautiful tome. I'm familiar with Frank's work, but the Kertesz Polaroids mentioned earlier in the year were a revelation. The images are stunning and the quality of the print and the small size of the book only adds to the impression of beholding a gem. And because Amazon 'suggested' it, I also bought 'Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids' which is an excellent complement to the Kertesz book.

I was fortunate to see the Vancouver exhibition as well. What struck me about the photos was that people seemed to really enjoy looking at them. I mean the subject matter, composition, use of color etc.
I was genuinely surprised that no one appeared to be "grain peeping" and claiming they could get better results from their DSLRs.
It was a nice reminder not to be too concerned about having the latest gear and it renewed my faith in photography in general!

I ordered the Fred Herzog book from Amazon Canada in last month, but not received it yet.

I ordered "The World from my Front Porch" and am extremely taken by it. I am a particular fan of this brand of personal photography. The "everything I need to make art is out my bedroom window" school. Towell's take on his obviously fascinating world is inspiring, unique, and wonderful. If Sally Mann shot with a Leica, these pictures might emerge. Thanks for the suggestion!

What a pleasure! There are pictures in this collection that are as good as anything of their kind anywhere. Thanks to Mr. Herzog and to everyone who made this book possible.

You're batting 1000 Mike. I bought the David Plowden book on your recommendation, then the Kertesz Polaroid book,Salgado's Africa and now the Herzog book on Vancouver. They're all winners! Thanks for the leads. The big book retailer in Lethbridge doesn't stock much in the way of photo books. Lots of how-to's but not too many serious works-of books.

Morry Katz

I know you probably just meant that you read about those books on TOP (and I *am* glad they're winners for you), but I should point out that several of the ones you mentioned were reviewed by Geoff Wittig, not by me. Just for the record.

Mike J.

60 Herzog prints are cataloged here:


And my books haven't arrived yet. :-(

I ordered "A China Chronicle" on your recommendation (first of the 20 responses? Am I the only one :-) ?). The book is HEAVY and big. Truly a coffee table tomb. The Chinese title, interestingly, is "Yu Gong Chronicle." Yu Gong, is one of those characters that made it to a Chinese idiom, this one being "Yu Gong Moves the Mountain," e.g. the mountain may be big, and Yu Gong may only have himself and his offsprings, but move that mountain they will, regardless how many generations of Yu it may take.

The book is impressively depressing. It's a China that looks gray, industrialized haphazardly, and you might think that they have nuclear reactor on every block. It's all that one would think of the worst of a Maoist society may look like. It's the anti-Olympic image if there ever is one.

Looked at a few of his photos on the internet and they looked very interesting. Now if only I could get any of his books from Amazon Japan.

Thanks to Paul De Zan for the Equinox Gallery link.

Is there any information available on Fred Herzog's photographic technique and practices?

I haven't received my copy yet - but did get an email from Amazon this morning letting me know it was delayed. Sounds like TOP's readers cleaned them out!

Fred Herzog's photographs and his picture taking philosophy have been an inspiration in my own photography. His work confirmed a lot of my own thinking, utilizing photography's strengths instead of subverting them in an attempt to make "art".

Thanks Mike that Herzog picture of the Man crossing Powell St. shook me to my bones.I knew I was looking at something I had a connection to but it took awhile and then I knew where he was standing when he shot that.The southeast corner of Powell and Gore.Back in 69 and 70 I was in that store to buy my tobacco and cigarette papers many times the reason being that I lived in the basement of the building that you can just catch a touch of on the left.For those of you interested just Google map "Powell and Gore Vancouver BC and you can look down on the York store as it is today and the tall thin building next to it on the northwest corner.He probably would have standing over on the corner with the blue and white building which then was called the Sunrise Market and I see it still has the parking on the roof today.That location is about a block from the photo of the foot of Main St. which is Main and Alexandria.That area was my home for a couple of years when I went to art school.

Well after looking at that shot for a much longer period of time and trying to get my head back 35 years or so I believe I may be out about the location by two blocks to the east and instead we are looking at Powell and Jackson across from the park.Finally the childrens playground sign clued me in and Powell flows in one direction only so you can only be south looking north.Still was in that store many times and certainly was not aware of Mr. Herzog in those days.Some old friends tell me I was to stoned to be much aware of anything.I plead guilty.


I'd love to hear you talk a little more about your comment:

"Fred Herzog's photographs and his picture taking philosophy have been an inspiration in my own photography. His work confirmed a lot of my own thinking, utilizing photography's strengths instead of subverting them in an attempt to make "art"."

I think I know what you mean, but 'art' may be as seductive a word as 'values'- something we can all agree on until the details come out. To my eye, Herzog's work seems pretty arty. (And I love it.)


p.s. If this feels like the start of another 'what is art?' free-for-all, I don't intend it to be, but I can't think of a better way to ask for more of your thoughts on the subject.


Fred Herzog's work is simply superb. His are examples of some of my favorite types of images.

Although my wife and I are not collectors I have started the ball rolling to acquire some of his prints for our local art museum's collection through our exhibition and acquisition fund at the museum.

Thanks very much for the tip, Mike. I might not have spotted Fred otherwise.

Can anyone fill in the technical details?

What film did he use - slide or print?

Did he develop and print his own?


I've ordered a copy of the Herzog book through Amazon, but haven't gotten it yet.

I find it interesting that Herzog is from Vancouver, as is Jeff Wall. Wall's work is entirely synthetic -- posed, made up, arranged, artificially lit, as with a painting -- and just looking at it, it appears that Herzog's work may have inspired him, and perhaps Gregory Crewdson as well.

I would be interested to know whether Herzog's stuff is entirely synthetic, or if it's a form of street photogaphy (the two are radically different.) I know that many street photographers isolate good backgrounds in public places, set up and then wait for a member of the public to strike a chord that resonates photographically. Herzog's "Old Man Main" could be one of those, or it could be totally synthetic, with a posed "actor" as the old man. Whichever it is, I doubt that it's a spontaneous street photo -- the background is simply too artful. A really terrific spontaneous street shot, like Frank's shot of the two people on the motorcycle, or the flag with the people in the window, always has some clutter which testifies to its authenticity. Herzog's stuff is notable for its lack of clutter, and that's why it so much resembles painting. (Though not Hopper, really -- more a painter like Sally Storch, who is much more "newsy" than Hopper. You can see some of her things here):


When I refer to things as "synthetic," this is in no way to disparage them. Most paintings, by their very nature, are synthetic, and I love painting.


Hi All:

I described my reaction to Fred Herzog's show in an earlier post to the original book recommendation.

To recap, I was knocked out.

But it was an experience that left me wavering between several emotional reactions.

One is the joy at seeing really stunningly good photos.

The other is a rueful realization that Fred and I are fundamentally different. He's got 'the eye', in that he can see what photographic possibilities there are in the world -- and then put his tools to work.

And I don't. Not really --not at his level.

I've settled for making images that I like, and for making myself happy and amazed by looking at Fred's book now and then. And I've accepted, once again, that the really good ones come along just every once in a while, and we are all richer, if a bit rueful, that we have found them.

Camera Ken

Being a ex-Vancouverite and having lived in the area of some of the work of Mr. Herzog way back when I will offer the opinion that the Old Man on Main is not a setup.There are many great backgrounds still plus if you want a look at the down and out of Vancouver that area is the place although the characters nowdays are much rougher trade. I enjoy the mans work probably from the viewpoint of having actually been at some of the locations shown.I agree with Mr. Tanaka.Thanks for the tip Mike.


Maybe I should not have used the term art because it's such a loaded term. I read an interview with Fred where he laments the lack of content in photography today and how painfully self referential it has become (I'm paraphrasing here). I like that there is so much to look at in Fred's photography, his pictures reward your looking, discovering details you had not seen before. You could say they can be read.

Then there is the felicitous use of color and light. Until I saw Fred's pictures I think the only photographer's work I really liked in color was Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Turkey Cinemascope series and some of Martin Parr's work.

I really doubt Herzog set any of his shots up. When you've seen the exhibition and the book it's pretty clear he is a street photographer in the classic sense.
It's not impossible to isolate a subject with an "artful" background and have no clutter. I've even managed it myself once or twice! Not on Herzog's level though!
I've even got some clean background street shots up in my RFF gallery.

"Can anyone fill in the technical details?

What film did he use - slide or print?

Did he develop and print his own?"

Evidentally Herzog shot mainly Kodachrome and before the advent of digital made his prints by the Cibachrome (aka Ilfochrome) positive to positive process, expensive and hard to control but which yields a really distinctive pallette. Can't remember where I read this.

instead of "really distinctive pallette" I should have said " really faithful to the original slide."

The Herzog book and its delicious, lovely color and light has come on vacation with me so we can spend some quality time together in Maine.

When I went to Amazon.com to buy the Shore book, I accidentally (don't ask!!) bought instead Joel Sternfeld's "American Prospects". I fell in love with it and never returned it. If you hadn't pointed me towards the Shore, I never would have navigated to the Sternfeld, so Thanks, Mike.

Amen, Kurt Peters.
I myself felt exactly like this (don't want to argue here on what art is).

Still waiting for my copy...

Got my email from Amazon.ca today, and checked. Maybe they will ship me a copy on July 24, maybe not until later. We certainly must have blown them away. I hope this causes a reprint and wider distribution.

thanks for the tip. Now to check out the many frames said to be available online.


I wanted to look at the book before it slipped my mind, and was skeptical about US deliveries from Amazon Canada, so I ordered one from a US dealer at a premium. I got it today, and find out that for my premium I got an autographed copy. 8-)

Interesting thing: there are photographs in this book in which *nothing* is sharp, and it doesn't distract from the photo at all, which says something about the sharpness/resolution mania of the last few years...

There are some amazing photographs here -- it's fun just figuring out the light sources in "Crossing Powell"...that's my favorite shot, along with "Flaneur, Granville" "Old Man, Main Street" "My Room, Harwood Street," and "CPR Pier and marine Building."


Herzog on staging shots: "I take pride in saying these are all how we looked, not how we wanted to look, or staged. You cannot stage pictures. That is something I have many many times defended. People say 'Well you can stage that.' I say 'No you cannot, and I can prove it to you.' Many times over I've taken a second shot after [some] kids have seen me, and nothing. It's a different picture."

"Jeff Wall is a friend, and he thinks that what he enacts is better than what other people find. I don't want to rock the boat, but it's not for me. His is a new stage in art. It's a little bit like film is compared to history. It's valid, I'm not challenging it. When I make a remark like 'what you find is more interesting than what you can make,' I mean it, but I don't mean it in such a way that it [precludes] other people from producing art on different levels."

Many more of Fred's thoughts here: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=02286fd5-d6ab-4c03-aada-e965332b0781

I love the book. Many thanks for pointing it out.

Just in case it hasn't been linked in higher up (or in the original article), here are 60 pictures for those of us still waiting to enjoy in the mean time:

I've only visited Vancouver in recent years, and without time to even see the Asian side that has developed there. I wonder about the Vancouver that is described in Malcolm Lowry's stories of his shack in Dollarton, all torn down for new development in the late 1940's. Herzog's pictures from the 1950's probably capture that flavor.


Amazon Canada are telling me this will be delivered to Ireland in October, I'm sure it will be worth the wait!

I came across Stephen Shore's updated "Uncommon Places" in a bookshop recently, while having a bunch of book tokens to spare. Had a quick browse, went away, thought about it and decided I had to have it. I'm still poring over it - and probably will be for years to come - but I haven't regretted my decision. My only slight qualm is that, were I ever to visit America, I'd be half-expecting it to look like this all over. And it probably doesn't anymore.

Mike, I just received my copy of Fred Herzog's "Vancouver Photographs," and I am immediately caught up in a mystery. Within about 20 seconds of picking up the book, my eye was caught by the headlines of the newspaper held by a pedestrian on the back cover photo: "Young Girl Strangled. BOY, 14, CHARGED IN BRUTAL SLAYING."

Any Canadian born before 1950 is likely to instantly think: Steven Truscott. (There's a Wikipedia entry.) Truscott's case is burned into Canadian public memory and played a major role in Canada's rejection of the death penalty. The photo is titled "Robson Street, 1957." However, the Truscott story began in 1959.

So, I'm pondering two questions: 1) Was Herzog aware of that particular newspaper headline? Great photographers like Herzog are typically very aware of every aspect of their photos. 2) Does the photograph actually depict a day in 1957 or the day of June 13, 1959, when Steven Truscott was charged?

Just got mine last Sat. I've lived in Toronto, Montreal and now 40 miles from Vancouver in Blaine WA. These wonderful images have a triple wammmy for me... the superb photography, especially the use of selective focus and telephoto compression, a sense of place and memories, and COLOR RULES!!! And #4, go west young man.
That's not me on page 58 but its my fave.
Looks like my copy is the 3rd printing so good for TOP in making this work known.

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