Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Man with Bandage (1968)

"A quiet belter of a photograph from 1968, 'Man With Bandage,' might justifiably be called Herzog’s signature shot — and not just because one of the many signs on view helpfully directs first-timers to the VISITORS BUREAU. Wires connect the heads of the titular man to the old lady behind him so perfectly that they serve almost as a perspectival diagram. The two are further associated both by his white bandage and her white gloves and by the way that his manly injury (wrist) is sympathetically echoed by her implied infirmity (legs, walking stick). Someone better acquainted with Vancouver’s geography and the picture’s orientation would know whether the long shadows are pointing toward evening or morning. The shaving cut on the man’s chin tends to suggest the hurry of a.m., but if this is rush hour, where’s the traffic? By the same token, if it’s happy hour, where’s the happiness? More to the point, where’s the bus? Each figure stares into the distance, straining to make out which of the buses routinely promised by the sign might be approaching. The light is hazy, but the man is squinting, as if staring into the face of divine radiance — a reminder that buses are anticipated as eagerly as the Second Coming and that timetables are best regarded as prophecies of dubious reliability. Who is to say that the bandaged hand did not result from a botched crucifixion served up by the serial obstacles of daily life, with the bloodied tissue paper on his chin covering a wound self-inflicted by safety razor (as opposed to a spear in the ribs) and the bus stop as a station of the commuter’s cross? The blob of blood on his chin is amplified, behind the old lady, by what I’m assuming is a mailbox — though the red is so featureless that, if painted, it would appear as a solid abstraction. Beyond that is a dense tangle of signage, which can be more fully decoded in a corroborative or Q.E.D. sort of way by reference to another photograph taken farther down the street."

The above is a paragraph from Geoff Dyer's December 14, 2017 New York Times article on the work of Fred Herzog. Entitled "The Odd, Otherworldly Glow of Fred Herzog's Photography", the article zooms-in on a couple of pictures when not making a case for Herzog as the missing link between Walker Evans and William Eggleston.

As for that "otherworldly glow," external factors (besides film stock) have to be considered. Part of this glow is due to the fog, when temperature inversions were more common to the port, but mostly it is related to the beehive burners that once dotted the region's shores.

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