Herman V. Wall

( 1905 - 1997 )

In a career spanning six decades, Herman V. Wall has photographed events that have shaped the future of the world and he has captured moments made special by their commonness. He has perfected that union of intuition and technique that is the basis of photographic art and the result is a collection of pictures that defy the very limits of their inherent two-dimensionality. Wall’s pictures captivate in the truest sense of the word, pulling the viewer in, communicating with an astonishing directness, lingering in the memory.

In the 1920’s, Herman Wall worked at the Hollywood Y.M.C.A. handing out towels and locker keys and selling pictures of the basketball team for twenty-five cents each.  This job helped pay for his education at the Art Center School (now the Art Center College of Design) where he spent many years studying photography.

Following his studies at the Art Center, Herman Wall became an assistant and ultimately a partner with renowned commercial photographer and photographic illustrator, Charles Kerlee. Wall began to develop his own reputation as a photographic illustrator during this period which might be called the “Golden Age of Photography.”

In World War II, Herman Wall’s leg was destroyed by shrapnel, and he was taken to a military hospital where he undertook a very lengthy recovery. This was on the first day of D-Day, and Herman was the one to send back the first images of what the front lines looked like. After this time, he met and married his wife, Ruth. He then moved back to Los Angeles, which he considered the most logical move.

In 1946, on assignment for Life magazine, Wall was sent to photograph Jan DeGraff’s world famous Oregon Bulb Farm. This trip resulted in a spectacular double page spread in Life and a thirty-five year relationship with DeGraff in which Wall returned each Spring to photograph the hybrid lilies.

In 1958, Wall was sent to the Middle East to shoot the illustrations for a series of informational brochures aimed at “Peace Through Education.” For six months, he traveled through Turkey and Iran, recording a way of life with his camera. Nomadic Bakhtiari tribespeople crouched by a fire exude a simple nobility that belies the starkness of their surroundings.

In 1964, Kodak honored some of these photographs with an exhibition at the New York World’s Fair and a “Special Award For Photographic Excellence” to their creator. Wall's relationship with Kodak continued for many years through his association with their professional journal, “Applied Photography,” and its editor, the renowned William A. Reedy.

In 1978 Wall joined with artist Trevor Goodman to create some photographs which cemented their friendship and became a tradition. After years of painting rural landscapes, Goodman began to build scale models of barns and the buildings of the Old West. Old wood rusted metal and nails scavenged from the deserts and mountains of California are the raw materials of these weathered replicas of a bygone era. 

After six decades of taking pictures, photography was still fun for Herman Wall. 

See all photos by Herman V. Wall