This is Part 2 of our interview with Todd Hido. To start from the beginning, read Interview with Todd Hido (Part 1) here.
‘I photograph like a documentarian, but I print like a painter', says Todd Hido (1968, USA), renowned for his night pictures of suburban houses and his poetic, luminous landscapes. He was recently in Amsterdam to give a workshop and GUP took the opportunity to ask him some questions.
Let’s talk about your upcoming book.
Silver Meadows is this street that goes through my childhood neighborhood. But all of the photos were not taken there - it’s like what Picasso said: “art is a lie that tells the truth”. The book is about going back to the past, and it’s probably a lot more personal and revealing than my previous books. It contains pictures of my friends and family, and even some personal mementos, like my father’s handwritten measurements. He was an athlete in his youth, and he used to measure his muscles! But some pictures are made up, also, and there’s no telling what’s genuine or not, what’s old or new. I also deliberately amplified certain things... it’s definitely personal, but also very fictionalized.
It’s also infused with a much stronger narrative.
Yes, it’s like a journey. We see the same characters, like this one model with whom I work a lot, Cristina, who is from Siberia - but it’s not always her in the photos, and since she’s also a great chameleon I’ve got tons of photos of her looking different.
The book has four double folds, which are strong points of narrative. There is an evolution, even if I want to keep it mysterious, like “what happened here, who is this, and why is she naked?” (he laughs). It’s like taking a trip, through childhood and adolescence, and then on to more serious or darker things. You get to the red spread, and it’s all about sex, drugs and rock and roll. Well, maybe not rock and roll...
I get my sequencing thing from Wings of Desire. I saw it in the theater, when I was 20, and it really moved me. You remember the angels flying through people’s apartments? They look in, and then they fly on. That’s my method.
This book is really the one that mixes your different styles the most; houses, landscapes, portraits. When did you start widening your work?
Sometimes when you put your work into the world, there’s an order to it. My first real show was at the Stephen Wirtz gallery in 1998; it was my houses at night, 18 of them, with some of the foreclosed homes in another room. I brought my other pictures, my landscapes and black and whites, thinking that I would show them that I also do other things. Connie and Stephen were like “No, no, no, take that stuff home right now!” Because I was new, they had to present a clear picture of who Todd Hido was. If you confuse that with other things, it doesn’t work. It feels very reductive, but that’s the way it goes.
But you feel freer now?
Much more. But it’s a trajectory. I didn’t want to be stuck as “houses at night guy”, and it was time for me to grow, or show that I had grown. So, in 2004, I purposefully did a book of landscapes with no houses in it, “Roaming”. The, after the landscapes, I wanted to photograph people - actually, I always did, and the question should rather be “when did you start photographing places?” (he laughs). I went to commercial photography school, so for years all I did was studio portraiture. When I was 20, I drove through America and only took two rolls of film - that’s ridiculous, it would never happen now! But I was stuck in that mode of relying on lights. Now I shoot all available light, and all my pictures have the same feel to them.
When is Silver Meadows coming out?
In October or November. And, I’ve been talking to a designer, because I’m really fascinated by ebooks and I’m exploring the option of making an ebook version of Silver Meadows. I like that more people would have access to it - students, other artists... etc. but I’m also very much into the idea of objects, and making things that last forever. I like to make big books. Because you can get your whole head in there.
To see more from Todd Hido, view our online portfolio of the artist's series Homes at Night.