I came aware of Todd Hido’s House Hunting work probably close to 20 years ago. I remember seeing it in college, I think, or maybe grad school, but I wasn’t really too hip on ordering photobooks online back then, so when Nazraeli Press announced a third edition of the long-out-of-print and wildly-expensive-on-the-secondary-market classic, I jumped on it.
Before I get too far into things, I want to clarify something: I’m a Todd Hido fan. I love his work. I understand, I think, what he’s doing and it appeals to me. In what follows, I’ll repeatedly refer to a (probably misremembered) criticism I read or heard back in 2004, maybe. This criticism, whoever leveled it, is not my criticism, but as a criticism, or set of critiques, it gives me a foil, something to push against, and helps avoid mere fanboyism.
Next, and just one more digression before I get into it, apologies about the unboxing video: it’s an old one, so no close-up flip-through, and the exposure was well off. There’s some noise in the shadows from boosting exposure in iMovie, as it was made before I discovered the wonderful DaVinci Resolve, and the huge size of the book means there’s some issues with the crop too.
Ok. With that out of the way, on with the show…
Back in the early 2000s, I came across Hido’s House Hunting work somewhere, somehow. I subscribed to Artforum, Art in America, and various art and art criticism journals at the time, and graduated from the visual arts program at the University of Illinois, Springfield, and the Art History and Criticism program at Stony Brook University in 2005 and 2008, respectively, so it could’ve been anywhere, really. I’m pretty sure I first saw it either in Illinois (after 2003) or here in Texas (prior to going back to school). I think I saw the images in a magazine, fell in love, then talked about them with someone who dismissed the work entirely, but maybe I saw images, fell in love, then felt dismayed and disillusioned at the take-down. I don’t really recall. Anyway. The criticism revolved around, on one hand, the intrusive, privacy-invading aspect of the work—photographs of suburban dwellings, mostly taken at night, with no visible humans—and, on the other hand, the dull, deadpan, simplistic execution of the work—sorta long exposure medium format work.
Now. Despite being an impressionable youngster (I started at UIS shortly after my 25th birthday), I mostly ignored the criticism. I loved the work for its color and its obvious claim to narrative and nostalgia. I tried to keep up with Hido’s career over the years, but was a bit late to the photobook party.
My first Hido book ended up being Intimate Distance, which I found used for cheap, and then his Aperture workshop book, on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. I collected his second B-Sides Box Set, Homing In, and jumped on Bright Black World when it first appeared. So, really, and despite my long term appreciation, I’ve been quite haphazard in my collecting. I’m glad Nazraeli and Hido decided to reprint House Hunting and it’s nice to start back at the beginning.
As the sort of first major body of work, House Hunting has the distinction of making Hido’s name for him, setting his course, more or less defining the sorts of places he photographs, the way he photographs, and, later, the people who populate his photographs. Nearly all of it seems to come out of or follow on from this first body of work. It’s not that the work doesn’t change—2019’s Bright Black World is wildly different from House Hunting—but that, say, the houses in House Hunting are Excerpts from Silver Meadows, just down A Road Divided from Khrystyna’s World and we travel Between the Two through the Outskirts. They all sorta fit together and flow somehow, and in ways that work from other of my photography heroes doesn’t.
Anyway, it’s great to sorta start at the beginning, and just sit with House Hunting for awhile. The book is huge, and images appear at roughly 12 by 16 inches, making it easy to dive right into the color and texture, the early evening peacefulness, the sorta unsettling and unsettled feeling of the images.
If I have one complaint about House Hunting, it’s that it’s too big. It’s almost too big to view comfortably on a lap, almost big enough that there’s no need to peer into the images. It’s big enough that dust settled into the book, in between the pages, and big enough that the dust jacket got dinged up quite substantially just sitting on the lower shelf of the coffee table, untouched, several inches from the nearest edge, for nigh-on three years. That said, I think the size is largely required: another thing I remember from the Hido & House Hunting takedown I read or heard way back when, was that the work was too big… It reminded me of the Woody Allen bit “The food at this place is terrible!” “Ya, and such small portions!”… And, really, the size is useful. Would I have noticed the Big Gulp cup in the shopping cart at the lower right-hand corner of #2675? Did I need to notice the Big Gulp cup in the shopping cart? :shrugs:
Anyway. The other proper monographs I have—Bright Black World, Excerpts From Silver Meadows, and Outskirts—are similarly large, and Hido’s prints tend to be huge. It’s part of his project, sort of a foregrounding of suggestive nostalgia of a particular type and time, an immersive, film-ish, quality that pulls you in, makes you—me—pause to look, remember, imagine. Katya Tylevich mentions this in the text for House Hunting on Hido’s website:
The scale of House Hunting, 17×13 inches (43×35 cm), initially gave the artist pause when proposed by the publisher. ‘I wasn’t sure about it. I didn’t want the book to end up crooked or shoved in someone’s bookshelf.’ Instead, the scale of the book demands a confrontation…Tylevich, Katya. “House Hunting.” retrieved from http://www.toddhido.com/househunting.html 2/2/2022.
And it is a confrontation, if not with the photographs themselves—I find a solace in them, myself—certainly with storage and access. The books are a pain to store—the portrait-oriented ones don’t fit on any shelf; the landscape-format ones stick out too far; it’s best to leave them on a coffee table, where they get dinged up by careless vacuuming, dripped or crumbed on by careless houseguests—I’m thrilled and privileged to have them, and hope Nazraeli reprint some of the others, maybe as sort of 20th anniversary celebrations, as they did with House Hunting and Ouskirts (review forthcoming).
Overall, I rate the 2019 reprint of House Hunting a solid 4.3 stars.
This third reprint was “limited to 4,000 copies,” in other words, massive, and copies remain available. One thing that shouldn’t give you pause, and that I haven’t commented on because I have nothing to compare this printing to, this edition is a “newly remastered” version, made to
…celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of this important book – certainly one of the most influential and oft-cited photography monographs of our time – [Nazraeli] collaborated closely with the artist to achieve a new impression of the highest possible fidelity. Printed on heavy weight matte art paper, using cutting-edge technologies in both the pre-press and production phases, this new edition of House Hunting stays true to the original design and format while delivering even more accurate color rendition and nuances in tone and saturation.Nazraeli Press publisher’s blurb. Retrieved from https://www.nazraeli.com/complete-catalogue/todd-hido-house-hunting-regular-edition 2/1/2022
So, short answer, it’s not a strictly faithful reprint. This one looks great to me, but be aware that it’s different from the original printing(s). I trust Hido’s color sense and all, and I know that, for example, I prefer the color in the first edition of Shore’s American Surfaces: the new edition of Shore’s book is too blue to my eye. So while the 2019 House Hunting looks great, it is different from the original version.
Ignorance being bliss and all, so I’m glad to have a copy regardless.