PHOTOGRAPHY | Heroes :: Fred Herzog ::: Billboards – Vancouver 2011

Newcomers to Vancouver may or may not notice the City of Vancouver’s distinct lack of billboards compared to other cities.

It wasn’t always like that. When I was a kid, the Granville Street Bridge (above), for example, was chock-full of billboards, which some purists thought blocked the view of the city and the mountains. “Eyesores!” they called them.

The thing they missed was that for some, like ace photographer Fred Herzog, the billboards were the view. They — and a vast ocean of neon signage — gave ’50s and ’60s Vancouver a gritty urban vibe missing in the new, improved (read: overplanned and “Vancouverized”) City of Glass.

Fred Herzog has been one of my heroes for a very long time. I am so happy that, starting a few years ago with a major retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007 (thank you, Kathleen Bartels, for putting the “V” back into the VAG!) he began to receive the recognition he so rightly deserves.

Herzog has taken an astounding 80,000+ photographs since he arrived on the scene via Montréal and Stuttgart in 1953. His collection serves as a parallel archive of the city’s development (parallel, that is, to the “official” City Archive and the historical photograph collection at VPL).

Herzog chose the streets as his subject and hyper-real Kodachrome as his medium. I love almost every photo I’ve seen of his … it’s nearly impossible to choose a favourite. “White Lunch Granville” (1959) however, evokes a personal nostalgia for a past long gone:

(I loved those White Lunch signs as a kid — bring the neon back to the city!)

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It was a thrill, then, to walk down Homer Street in May 2011 and do a double take at a trilon mechanical billboard next to Budget Rent a Car across from Moshe Safdie’s Library Square.

There on this precious plot of land screaming for redevelopment rotated three of Herzog’s photographs from his enormous oeuvre: “Lucy/Granville,” “Foot of Main,” and “Sign of Good Taste, Portland.”

Lucy/Georgia

Foot of Main

Sign of Good Taste, Portland

This mechanical billboard was part of the 2011 CONTACT Photography Festival. Kudos to Scotiabank for sponsoring the event and giving us back our Herzogs and putting them back on the street where they belong. It was brilliant while it lasted.

And extra special thanks to Mr. Herzog for pursuing his talent as a young man, mailing all those rolls of Kodachrome to Kodak in Palo Alto and Rochester, and for documenting my city and its inhabitants for the past fifty-plus years.

Bravo!

P.S. Fred: If by chance you should read this, I’d love to interview you! Cheers, Michael

FRED HERZOG by JOHN GOLDSMITH

Two of the three Homer Street billboards in Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs, the VAG retrospective catalogue

“Foot of Main” in The City of Vancouver (1976) by Barry Broadfoot, Rudy Kovach, and Fred Herzog

The three Herzogs on Homer, 30 April – 4 June 2011

Fred Herzog

Hastings and Carrall
Ink Jet Print
19.5 x 30 in. image size
1968

Fred Herzog

Granville Street from Granville Bridge
Ink Jet Print
19.5 x 30 in. image size
1966
Edition of 20
90226

Fred Herzog

Lucy/Georgia
Ink Jet Print
20 x 29.5 in. image size
1968
Edition of 20
90224

Fred Herzog

Foot of Main
Ink Jet Print
10.5 x 18 in. image size
1968
Edition of 20
90220

Fred Herzog

Sign of Good Taste, Portland
Ink Jet Print
20 x 29.5 in. image size
1959
Edition of 20
17657

Fred Herzog

Bogners Grocery
Ink Jet Print
19.5 x 30 in. image size
1960
Edition of 20
90142

Fred Herzog

White Lunch Granville
Ink Jet Print
30 x 20 in. image size
1959
Edition of 20
9016

John Goldsmith | Fred Herzog: Flâneur, Not Voyeur

John Mackie | Fred Herzog: Philosophy of Photography PDF

The Tyee | Fred Herzog’s Gracious, Ghastly City PDF

John Mackie | Visions of Vancouver  PDF

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