'Modern Color' shows how Fred Herzog captured an era in living color

Herzog offers up a body of street photography created before it was a recognized genre.

Modern Color By Fred Herzog Hatje Cantz 320 pp.

Fred Herzog might not be a household name in the photography world, but his work holds its own against the likes of Walker Evans and William Eggleston, two photographers with whom Herzog shares an aesthetic. The images in Modern Color offer lovely, quiet vignettes of everyday life on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia, in the 1960s and ’70s. Herzog offers up a body of street photography created before it was a recognized genre.

Born in Germany, Herzog settled in Canada, taking a job in medical photography. In his free time, he would hit the streets in working-class neighborhoods, producing more than 100,000 exposures over 29 years. The volume of exposures was made possible by his choice of medium – Kodachrome transparency film. The film required no darkroom work on Herzog’s part and allowed him to capture the hues he saw in urban landscapes before him. Color is as integral to Herzog’s work as is his way of framing the world around him.

Kodachrome allowed Herzog’s photos to portray the vivid tones of an era, but it also contributed to his relative obscurity. Since he had few options for producing high-quality prints from the film transparencies, his images remained largely unseen. Only recent advancements in digital scanning and printing allowed a faithful reproduction of this analog collection. The result is a collection of beautifully crafted images that offer the viewer a deep sense of time and place from a photographer well deserving of recognition.

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