REVIEW: Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude
By Jendayi Omowale
Contemporary American photographer, Todd Hido, known for his beautiful photography of urban and suburban housing, is now explaining his brilliant artistry in the book, Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude. The third installation in the Aperture Foundation’s The Photography Workshop series, Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude, showcases Hido’s work and seizes the opportunity to tell an intriguing narrative with intuitive imagery: using his experiences as a veteran photographer to give an honest approach to creative and practical issues in the field.
Todd Hido uses the title of his book to give some structural organization to his narrative, chronologically ordering the ‘exterior’ images: ‘landscapes’ and houses with his childhood and initial academic endeavors in photography, and using the ‘interior’ images: interiors of houses and their residents, as backdrops for explaining how his photography has evolved since graduating school. The book is divided by concise subjects that detail important aspects about the process of becoming, being, and remaining a photographer with integrity in his or her work. The readers are finally led into the book’s content with an affectionate introduction to Todd Hido and his work is given by his mentee Gregory Halpern, who characterizes him as a man of character and talent with practical advice, outstanding work ethic, and great passion for photography.
Todd Hido’s first title in his book, is, “A Reason To Press the Shutter”, and is a stellar beginning to Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude; he delineates the content of this book: he discusses the successes and trials of his career and gives, “practical, professional, and creative advice,” to other photographers. In “A Reason To Press the Shutter” he explains his photography is created by, “the impulse to record something,” and that this ‘impulse’ for him is usually an element that calls back to the places of his past. Hido closes this starting chapter by giving the reader his best advice, “Measure twice, cut once,” stating that a photographer should always photograph whatever compels him regardless of the conditions, saying, “I believe that we should all strive to get it right in the camera.”
‘Exteriors’, the first series of images, is accompanied by Todd Hido describing his childhood and how that lead to his illustrious career in photography. He describes his childhood as a precarious one in a suburban development, a place that would later influence his distinct domestic imagery. His first camera was an instamatic 126 Kodak, his first picture was of his family’s living room, and he became truly captured in the world of photography, when he picked up the camera to photograph his and his friends’ exploits in the world of BMX racing, trying to depict “the drama of jumps in mid-air.” As he matured during his academic experiences, he was influenced by artists who explored domestic settings in a nuanced manner, like Larry Sultan. He later echoes this approach in his “night photography” that accompanies this portion of the book, with each house becoming a ghostly and mysterious character in the stark palette of twilight. Todd Hido states that with every image he strives for some ambiguity that will draw the viewer in but also leave them unsettled; there is always a distinct characteristic in every photo of his that speaks to a larger narrative and interpretation.
‘Interiors’ is the other part of Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude, and is where Hido goes into greater lengths about the emotional gravitas of his photography. He utilizes the technical aspects of photography to achieve an engaging emotional weight and narrative with the viewer. He details the usage of diagonal perspective and destabilized cameras that construct ominous atmospheres in images; darkroom and editing techniques for desired image manipulation; and an observant eye in every environment as a few of the factors that create poignant photography. Hido emphasizes the significance of colors; to him they project an implication of an ideal, philosophy, or atmosphere within an image. His portraits or ‘nudes’ illustrate his enamor with the intimacy of body language in photography and the genesis of story-making that occurs when photographing a person in a place.
While discussing his own philosophy in imagery, Hido still doles out practical, hands-on advice. He delves into the narrative capability of sequencing images that evoke strong sentiments when paired; the balancing act between planning the setting of a photograph and still allowing for random elements in the photo; or the value of variation, repetition, and change in a photographer’s work.
Todd Hido closes Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude by explaining the priority that motivation and inspiration has in exceptional photography: “You have to stay motivated to go on to the next thing and make art on your own for the long haul.” Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and The Nude is a witty, knowledgeable book that demonstrates the art of photography and the process of photographic creation, and thoroughly contextualizes the work of the great American contemporary photographer, Todd Hido.