Fred Herzog’s Innovative Colour

Fred Herzog | Modern Color surveys the life and work of the Canadian artist, who is considered a pioneer of street photography. This new collection includes more than 230 images, detailing the life of a man who, after evacuating Germany in WWII, emigrated to Canada and started documenting the working class.

As his career began before the development of colour film, the artist observed everyday life in black and white. Introduced in 1935, the Kodachrome film was initially considered a product for amateur slides, an idea that the artist resisted, instead making the use of colour characteristic of his work. In this, Herzog became one of the most known figures for his unusual use of colour in the 1950s and 1960s. Interested in film’s ability to reproduce details of certain spectrums, texture and atmosphere, he began wandering, observing and discovering became integral to his practice.

With advances in camera technology, such as the Kodak Retina 1 and the Leica M3, the stuggart-ban artist began photographing the urban west coast of Canada, with the streets, sidewalks, shop windows and displays, advertisements, parking lots and courtyards drawing the focus of his images. Central to the method was the candid nature of the subjects. Positioned as an external observer, the artist maintained his opinion that people shouldn’t know they were being pictured. Herzog worked almost exclusively with Kodachrome films for over 50 years, and only recent developments in technology have enabled the practice of archival pigment prints that match the colour and intensity of the previous slides.

Although the photographer worked for the UBC Department of Biomedical Communication for much of his professional life, his reputation was for personal snapshots that brought into focus the importance of the quotidian in spite, or perhaps due to, his traumatic childhood. This is the most complete monograph to date of Herzog’s oeuvre, uniting the most significant pieces from his collection, some of which have never been reproduced before. Alongside the images, essays from David Campany, Hans-Michael Koetzle and Jeff Wall shed light on the visual world with historical information and a background of the artist’s life.


Fred Herzog | Modern Color is published by Hatje Cantz, available now. For more information, visit:

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1. Fred Herzog Modern Colour. Courtesy of Hatje Cantz.