The Odd, Otherwordly Glow of Fred Herzog’s Photography

Revisiting a master of Kodachrome.

Just down the road from where I live, a store is trying out a new retail marriage: pricey eyewear and photography books. Its patron saint ought to be Ralph Eugene Meatyard, who was an optician and a photographer, but his books, as far as I could make out, were nowhere to be seen. The volume in the window that caught my eye — possibly because the cover image was of a (barber)shop window — was Fred Herzog’s “Modern Color.” Herzog’s work offers the latest instance of a form of eye exam that has enjoyed increasing visibility in the last several years.

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In 1953, decades before William Eggleston and Stephen Shore established color photography as a serious medium for art photography, Fred Herzog shot his first roll of color film. His wonderful and remarkable street pictures are the subject of a new monograph called Fred Herzog Photographs, published this month by Douglas and McIntyre.

Fred Herzog: Photographs

Fred Herzog purchased his first camera in 1950 and began working in color to do what he describes as “intimate journalism in a city environment. They call that street photography now…. I would find certain street corners where people gathered, or other public spaces, places I felt would have an atmosphere that suited anybody.