I’m a Todd Hido fan. His work has something, a suggestive, narrative, open-ended quality that I find fascinating and intriguing. I’ve thusfar been unable to acquire any of his monographs—House Hunting, Excerpts from Silver Meadows, Khrystyna’s World, etc.—so, for now, Intimate Distance: Twenty-Five Years of Photographs, A Chronological Album, a retrospective of sorts, will have to do.
I say “retrospective, of sorts” because Intimate Distance collects twenty-five years of Hido’s photographs, from 1991 through 2014, arranged mostly chronologically. Many of the images appeared in various completed projects (such as those mentioned above), and there are bunch that appear here for the first time, as far as I know. What this arrangement shows, first of all, is how Hido pulls photographs from throughout his career and arranges them into various projects.
Images from House Hunting were all made before 2001, and some appear in later works. Images from Outskirts, Roaming, and many later projects (especially Excerpts from Silver Meadows) were made at the same time and after. The earlier the book, the shorter the time frame and the fewer the images Hido had to draw from; the later the book, the broader the palate he had to pull from.
It also shows that Hido wasn’t singularly focused on any particular photographic style at any given time. Sure, he photographed suburban homes at night, but he also shot through his rain (or water bottle, or glycerin) soaked windshield, he photographed cheap hotel rooms and the backside of suburban and industrial parks, he made portraits of young women, all from early on, and you can see a clear progression of his intent and vision.
Intimate Distance opens with a great essay from David Company, titled “Light and Dark Chambers.” Company relates Hido’s work to Breton and Vaché and their early interest in film that led to their writings on Surrealism; to Walker Evans’ interest in film, as “a marvelous bunch of photography;” to Roland Barthes “En sortant du cinéma. For Company, Hido is something like a cinematographer of the still image, like a location scout who somehow manages to encapsulate entire scenes, entire films even, into individual still frames.
I think that’s what I love about Hido’s work.
The book is broken up into various segments—1968-2001, 2001-2002, 2004-2006, 2006-2010, 2010-2013, 2013-2016—each preceded by a Chronology and introduced by Katya Tylevich, who briefly discusses the projects that came about during the time: House Hunting, Outskirts; Roaming; Between the Two; A Road Divided; Limited Edition and Experimental books; Excerpts from Silver Meadows. Through all, what we find is Hido’s willingness to continue “house hunting,” “roaming” the “outskirts” of “Silver Meadows” even long after the books have been published: As of 2016, he’s still photographing lower class dwellings at night and suburban and rural landscapes through a wet windscreen. And no matter what new ideas and ways of working he discovers, he never really turns his back on things that came before.
Now, I’ve never really hit upon a coherent body of work, but I do notice recurring themes and motifs, and I too keep photographing them, keep trying to find something there, and I hope to take some inspiration from Hido. Not so much the content of his photographs, but his ways of working, from finding subjects to culling thousands of frames, even bringing in found photographs, to produce a singular body of work, but then continuing on, reusing those same images and same ideas to come up with a different suggestion of narrative.
The book cover comes off, and unfolds to reveal a large poster, featuring a bunch of images from Khrystyna’s World. I’m half tempted to hang it on the wall, but only half… I’m too old and too “adult” for pinning up posters on the wall, I think. I’m really interested in the way Hido presents his work in the gallery, which I’ve never seen in person, but is well-represented by the interior poster of the cover, and by some of the layouts in the book, with photographs arranged into a sort of cloud shape, made up of different sizes, printing qualities, ages, formats, etc. Hido isn’t the first to show photographs this way. For example, I reviewed Takuma Nakahira’s Overflow some time ago, and that project was only ever presented as an arrangement of photographs, hung gallery-style on the wall. But Hido’s are less conceptual, more obviously suggestive of narrative, and I dig it.
I really want to acquire some of Hido’s monographs, and I’m keeping an eye out for them at my preferred used bookstores, but Intimate Distance is an excellent overview of Hido’s output. Overall, I give it 4.2 stars.
Intimate Distance is available new, direct from Aperture, and at other bookstores. My copy came used, for cheap, and it was worth every one of the not very many pennies I spent on it. Hido’s website has a thorough selection of his published work, and is totally worth a visit, especially if you’re unfamiliar with his oeuvre.