Todd Hido’s work is eerie, mysterious, somewhat disconcerting. His pictures of landscapes and home interiors convey loneliness, isolation, abandonment. Even his portraits show an unusual side of the people they depict – usually women, as they “have a wonderful ability to show their vulnerability”, Todd says. But it’s in this darkness that one can find the purest forms of beauty: nature in all its glory (the majestic landscapes of the United States), people’s honesty and emotional nakedness, or everyday details we often miss. Today, we speak with the American photographer about books, the dusk, and his future projects.
You say that Larry Sultan, a former teacher and friend, impacted your work when you first started out as an independent photographer. Would you say that, in an alternative reality where you never met Sultan, you would have figured out your current artistic trademark?
Yes, I am sure I would have. These things are within you and are not something that are created by your mentor. They might be noticed by them and they foster its growth, but you are either on the path or not.
Other than Sultan, do you have any other figures that influence your work?
From afar, Emmet Gowin influenced my work greatly. He was somebody whose work I loved. I was able to learn a great deal from him remotely – especially about printing photographs. Along with the attitude of ‘do no less well than you can do, on principle’.
You say that you shoot sceneries that seem familiar to you, which follows the artistic guideline of ‘only write what you know’. You only shoot roads and houses that remind you of childhood memories in Ohio. Do you ever see yourself broadening your panorama?
I have always been the kind of artist that makes changes in the way I do things or what it is I do when I am very ready. In fact, I have an entirely new book that is shot in various places around the globe called Bright Black World. It has nothing to do with my memory, only a perception of what may be our future.
Can you please explain for our readers your following quote: “I photograph like a documentarian, but I print like a painter.”
Sure, that is quite simple. In most of my photographs of places (interiors or exteriors), I am shooting precisely what I have found. The only modification to that comes when I am working either the dark room or on the computer to make the final print. That is where I take many liberties in influencing the mood of how the picture will ultimately appear.
What’s your favorite time of day: twilight or dawn? Do you believe both moments have the same charm?
I’d say dusk. I would agree that all transitions from light to dark have unique qualities to them.
As a photographer and an artist, how do you achieve the balance in sequencing your work? Making sure the pieces are similar enough to follow a pattern, but unique enough to tell different stories?
Selecting and sequencing my images has always been something that I have very instinctively understood. My typical process involves making pairs of images, then pairing the pairs. After a few of those, you end up with different groups. Once that has occurred, those groups turn into books or projects when placed together. Yet again, I try and let my intuition lead me. Sometimes, when you overanalyze these things, they simply do not turn out very well.
You have published many books. Which of them do you believe best portrays your key trait elements?
Every single one of them. Publishing is something I very carefully do. I have never done a book that I did not feel like I needed to make. The way I look at it, the books are the things that get the widest distribution. They are the things that will be around potentially forever. It will be how your work is perceived historically. Exhibitions go up and down, your social media feed could come and go, but books are around always.
Your portraits hold the same eerie atmosphere as your landscapes, and they are mostly women. Why use the female figure to communicate your stories?
They are what I am interested in because I have a familiarity with the multifaceted ways that they exist in the world. Another reason that I end up photographing them more than men, is that they simply have a wonderful ability to show their vulnerability and drop the venire that all of us have. This is important because I want to make something that has emotion within it, and it is not something that I have been regularly able to capture with men.
To finish, what are you currently up to? Any upcoming exhibitions or projects we should know about?
My next projects are going deeper into Norway and photographing more landscapes there. I will also continue my thread of classical portraiture, that I had exhibited some of in Arles last year – except this time, I will be photographing in Poland.