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I’m not much of a fan of what passes as “street photography,” either contemporary or historic. I think much of it is haphazard if not downright accidental. I think Garry Winogrand, who some of my friends revere as the Godfather of Modern Street Photography, is ridiculously overrated and mainly owes his reputation to the patronage of John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Henri Cartier-Bresson , who is frequently lumped in with this crowd, is somewhere on another plane in my mind. He was an artist, not a voyeur, and he knew how to construct an image.

I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed this collection of photographs from Fred Herzog, an unknown (to me at least) photographer who prowled the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia and other North American cities back in the  sixties and seventies.  Surprised, that is, until I started to quarrel with the photo editors at Time Magazine who shared these photographs on their blog. They’re calling them street photography, but I’m not so sure that’s true. I think they’re visual poems using the visual geometry of the urban landscape, which is something else again.

Curtains - 1972 (© Fred Herzog—Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver)

I find an artistry in many of Herzog’s images that seems to be absent from the genre we know as street photography, a careful arrangement of elements, a story, an attention to detail.  I find myself not just viewing some of these shots but experiencing them, trying to tease out a narrative that provides a  comfortable place for the little fragments of time that Herzog gives us.

Martin Luther King - 1970 (© Fred Herzog—Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver)

I think if I were in Vancouver, I’d find my way down to the Equinox Gallery and spend some time with Herzog’s work.

Time - 1967 (© Fred Herzog—Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver)

RXM

 

 

 

 

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