Vancouverite Fred Herzog talks sixty years of chronicling the city in Kodachrome
Taken from the September issue of Dazed & Confused:
In 1953 Fred Herzog, an orphaned emigrant from Germany who had only just bought his first camera, arrived in Vancouver. On leave from working in the shipyards, he took the first of 120,000 pioneering colour photographs of life on the city’s streets: Kodachrome street shots telling stories of barbershops and billboards from an outsider perspective. This image, “Man with Bandage”, was taken in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 1968, and captures a young coastal city in the dying days of neon.
“This photo was taken on Hastings Street, near Main. This area is now called the Downtown Eastside. It has lost much of its charm since all the neon signs came down in the 1970s. Vancouver was a much nicer city than Toronto. Toronto was the centre of finance, with heavy traffic and a terrible mish-mash of old and new. Vancouver was also a mish-mash of old and new, but more convivial because it was smaller.
I did not plan this shot. In fact, I shot it from the hip while walking, which is why the man’s head is
cut off at the top. In retrospect, it makes the picture more interesting. I don’t know who the man is – he did not see me take the picture – but I like his typical American stance. It is elegant, assured and oblivious to the Band-Aids, bandage and sloppy dress. I’m not certain what he is doing. The woman is waiting for the bus.
Vancouver was a much nicer city than Toronto. Toronto was the centre of finance, with heavy traffic and a terrible mish-mash of old and new
On the morning of the day this photograph was made, I borrowed a 28mm wide-angle lens for my Nikon SLR camera. In anticipation of such an event, the exposure controls for colour film had to be accurately set, as had the distance. All the above had to be done one half-second before I pressed the shutter button. If the photographer is seen before the shutter is released, the opportunity is lost forever. I call this type of photography ‘photorealism’, because reality of this sort becomes a document of life as it looked in 1968.”