Outskirts is the sort of follow-up, companion book to House Hunting, featuring more apartment complexes and dead ends, and fewer homes than the earlier book, much like the outskirts of my hometown and probably yours too. As a good little Hido fanboy, I jumped on the 2021 edition without a second thought.
As with House Hunting, Outskirts is all pictures of suburban areas made mostly at night, between 1996 and 2000 (House Hunting) or 2001 (Outskirts), with Hido’s Pentax 67. I want to say it was mostly houses in the first book, and it’s more apartment complexes and dead end roads in this one, and after spending several hours days going back and forth between the, that’s pretty much what it is. House Hunting has one of the landscape-shot-through-smeared-glass pictures that would populate Roaming and A Road Divided, where Outskirts has none; Outskirts has somewhat more concrete-block apartments, like those that might feature in Between the Two,* and is more on the, well, outskirts, I guess… Really, they’re very similar and fit rather seamlessly together.
I spent about two hours looking at them one after another, slowly, over and over again, and a few of the spreads sort of correspond…
But, really, Outskirts just is as the title suggests: it’s the outskirts of the largely suburban neighborhood in which Hido did most his of House Hunting. In fact, the earlier book even ends with a photograph that could almost be one side of the older apartment complex that opens the later book.
Both books open with text, which I didn’t mention in my House Hunting review, largely because I forgot. In that book, A. M. Holmes’ “Just Looking,” leads off with a poem (the book calls it a story), that focuses more on the photographer and his creepiness; Luc Sante’s “Stranger,” more on the creepiness of what might be going on in the houses and apartments Hido photographs.
Think of the traveler of a century ago, seeing a lit window up ahead on the lonely road and cheering up at the prospect of hospitality—that has vanished without a trace. The lit window now stands between you and a possibly deadly unknown. The callers who spew bile on all-night talk radio crouch behind those lit windows. Behind those lit windows killers are dismembering their victims. And a the other extreme, there is bad food, bad beer, low-caliber television, and an intimacy that has no place for you.Sante, Luc. “Stranger” in Todd Hido, Outskirts. Nazraeli Books, Paso Robles, CA, 2021. unpaginated
It may be that I’m just more of a prose person, someone who doesn’t quite respond properly to verse,** but I almost want to quote the entirety of Sante’s story and found something more in it each time I read it (up to 6 or so, now). Holmes’ story/poem thing never quite gels for me, even after 8 or 9 trips through. Both are very well written, as you would hope, and ymmv and all; I just vastly prefer Sante’s prose.
I could go on about the introductions, but the pictures are the stars of the show, and if you enjoyed House Hunting, Outskirts is, well, different enough to warrant taking a look, and similar enough to be the obvious companion and follow-up. The books are identical in trim size, page & image count, end papers, and cover stock, and they look great together on a
shelf coffee table. (I have the same complaint about Outskirts as I did with House Hunting: it’s too big. I won’t go into it again.) They look great together and really belong together.
How could I do any less than rate it the same, 4.3 stars as its sibling?
At time of writing, copies remain available direct from Nazraeli, and… huh. The 2021 reprint of Outskirts is the 2nd edition, and limited to 3000 copies; the 2019 House Hunting is the third edition and Nazraeli printed 4000 of those. I think I can see why: House Hunting shows a nice, nostalgic view of seemingly pleasant neighborhoods that many people, especially those who buy $75 photobooks; Outskirts shows old apartment buildings that hold very little nostalgia for those same book buyers, of which I am one. Thing is, I do have, if not nostalgia per se, certainly a memory of, an imagination of, I’ve been in them, lived in, visited relatives and friends in, etc. There’s some difference, but both show places where good people live and Hido made sensitive, beautiful, strongly suggestively narrative photographs for both.
Enjoy both. I do.
* Insofar as only House Hunting and Outskirts have been reprinted recently, and only Bright Black World came out in the last few years, and my ability to find, let alone actually acquire, any of the first editions is limited, I haven’t seen most of Hido’s other books.
** I read and studied poetry for about a decade, used to write my own and read it and the work of other poets at readings, but that was years ago. I see Alec Soth talking about poetry all the time, and the dark, cynical part of me sneers, while the wildly suppressed, flickering flame of hope twinkles and says “maybe try again…”