“Good for pictures”

The Vancouver Art Gallery solo exhibition of photographs by Fred Herzog, who died a few days ago, was perhaps the biggest art event of 2007 in my city. It was a revelation, nothing less. Christopher Cheung’s retrospective essay in The Tyee is a wonderful introduction as well as memorial to Herzog’s work.

This passage struck me:

“I don’t think we can have a photographer like Fred Herzog now,” wrote photographer Jeff Wall in Vancouver Magazine. “In order to have that affection, there has to be something to have it for… those objects of his affection no longer exist. Or if they do exist, they are just vestiges of what they were in 1957 or 1961, when he captured them perfectly.”

[David] Campany [in his book Modern Color] adds that Vancouver “had been physically transformed in ways that were unconsciously cynical and dispiriting. The kinds of architecture, informal social spaces, and layer of material history to which Fred Herzog was drawn had been swept aside. In their place came a dense and homogeneous landscape determined by raw capital, and insensitive to its inhabitants.”

Herzog himself has said that the downtown is boring now, lacking the “disordered vitality” he was used to. But he admits that what might have made for good images could be bad for people. For one, Vancouver used to have a lot more smog, in part from burning garbage, that was good for pictures, but not residents.

“In order to have that affection, there has to be something to have it for… those objects of his affection no longer exist.” This sentence evokes time, so beautifully.

Photograph “Man with Bandage, 1968,” by Fred Herzog, courtesy of The Equinox Gallery.

Used with permission.

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