It might be more useful, if not necessarily more true, to think of photography as a narrow, deep area between the novel and film.
‘I don’t tell a complete story through a photograph,’ Hido says, ‘I suggest one.’ Since the release of his first monograph in 2001, an award-winning book titled House Hunting, Todd Hido has brilliantly exploited a rich vein in photography that is hard to define. The photographs in House Hunting are atmospheric and depict middle class homes and small town motels mostly shot at night. There are lights shining from within, and the occasional solitary streetlight illuminates a dirty pile of snow, a broken down car, a fenced in yard. As viewers, we’re neither too close nor too far from the apparent subject.
The popular notion of “the photographer” is someone who acts as documentarian, as witness to events, as truth-teller. And that’s accurate for a non-fiction type of photography. There are no humans depicted in any of the photographs in that first book. Their presence is implied, however, and that implication strikes at the heart of his artistic practice. Hido maken photographs that are “in the vicinity of narrative,” a narrative that is closer to fiction than anything else.
Hido is extremely prolific, and both a student and master of the photobook tradition, as well as of film and pulp pop culture. In his 2013 critically acclaimed series, Excerpts from Silver Meadows, the full narrative implications of his voracious creative energies became apparent. “The calculated juxtapositions of Hido’s photographs on a page or gallery wall,” writes author Katya Tylevich, “smack of beginnings and endings, but because each photograph is broken from a conventional arc, determining whether that arc is tragic, comic or flat-lining altogether depends more on the reader, remarkably, than the author. ... The single-family home with a light on and a car parked in the driveway can be suggestive of domestic monotony as much as of a domestic disturbance.”
The oversized work offered here is a hybrid between an assemblage, a collage, and a page torn from the artist’s sketchbook. It is a unique, uneditioned work, one of a growing series that the artist has produced in recent years, to dazzling effect. The kaleidoscopic array of made and found photographs of cars, neon signs, country roads, blurry street corners, faded book covers, torn notes, and above all the female figure—in this case, his primary muse Khrystyna appears in various guises, at times forlorn, at other times sexed up—all combine to produce an endless layering of place and mood and sends the imagination scurrying down multiple paths at once.
Hido’s work is in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Pilara Foundation, San Francisco, and The Art Institute of Chicago, among others.