I took the picture above as part of the ‘Positioning a point’ exercise and posted it on social media yesterday. One of my contacts made the extremely generous comment that it looked ‘like a Todd Hido but in mono’. Before replying, and telling him how flattered I was by his comment (and how misguided he was!), I spent a couple of hours learning about Todd Hido (pronounced hi-dough) and his work.
The first examples of his work that I encountered were his ‘signature’ long-exposure shots of suburban America after dark. It was a style that appeals to me because of its simplicity, limited colour and grounding in reality. Indeed, in a couple of the video interviews I watched, Hido explains that he does not stage these shots or add additional lighting – the scene is as he finds it. He says
I photograph like a documentarian
and print like a painter
meaning that he is happy to adjust colouring to give the look he is after, sometimes to make the scene look like a model and often removing colour casts – something I’ve always struggled with when taking these sorts of pictures. He favours an area of San Fransisco that is often foggy, adding to the claustrophobia of the scenes. He explores the ‘quiet isolation’ and the stories told by, for example, TVs being on in two rooms of the same house.
There is a voyeuristic element to his work. However, when given closer attention, we see nothing of the interiors of the houses he photographs, only the light from their windows. His interview from 2009 on Americansuburbx.com recalls an entertaining incident when he is challenged when shooting outside someone’s house. He explains that he is an art photographer, making pictures of the street, and on presentation of his business card is allowed to carry on.
Hido says that he doesn’t know what he is trying to say with these pictures. He likes artists with short artistic statements!
More recently, he has begun taking nudes (like Dylan going electric) and explains that he feels like a beginner ‘…or intermediate at any rate’ again. Shot in hotel and motel rooms, these interiors could be the insides of the houses he shot previously. He uses these locations because they are easier to make bare; the often shabby decor adding to the seedy feel. He shoots these sessions with a selection of cameras and formats, creating ‘bi-products of the shoot’. Also fascinating was that he’ll sometimes not direct the model, leaving awkward pauses. “There’s a tension that comes from not directing a person,” Hido explained. “That tension makes for good pictures.”
Hido makes limited edition, large format photobooks or monographs. In his opinion, a book is a movie on paper. It flows. It has a beginning, a middle and an end in an order set by its creator.
The more I read about Todd Hido and his work, the more I like him (and it). I love the idea of shooting scenes on a variety of cameras and formats and using the differing images to explore differing elements to the subject – something I intend to do more of.
I also like his lack of pretension and accessibility and will be studying his work further…
Breton, J. (2006) Todd Hido: Art of darkness [online]. ASX. Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/09/theory-todd-hido-art-of-darkness.html [22 December 2013]
Bidwell, L. (2013). Todd Hido talks about ‘Excerpts from Silver Meadow’. YouTube. Available from: http://youtu.be/Xyy-lcv-xJc [22 December 2013]
This was my first post from a mobile devices. Fingers crossed as I hit the ‘publish’ button…