If I clearly remember my first encounter with Todd Hido’s House Hunting, my memory of Excerpts from Silver Meadows is more fragmented, confused, spotty. I clearly remember wanting a copy, and hunting for one for years, always put off by how expensive the out of print book is, despite first appearing in an edition of 3000 copies, but that was all well after the fact, well after actually learning of and seeing the work. Then, deep in the depths of the continuing pandemic, after receiving the third stimulus check, my tax return, and annual bonus all in the span of about 2 weeks, I pulled the trigger on the cheapest, most beat-up copy I could find. It wasn’t the most expensive book I impulse/anger/depression-bought in that period, but it’s probably the one I wanted the longest…
In my mind, Excerpts from Silver Meadows is maybe the fullest expression of Hido’s overall project, so far, anyway, and it comes in a direct line that began with House Hunting and Outskirts. Now, I haven’t seen or spent any time with the intervening books (Hido only lists the Nazraeli-published Roaming, Between the Two, and A Road Divided, and there are other monographs in there from other publishers), but I know some of the work thanks to the Aperture-published Intimate Distance retrospective book and my general Hido fanboyism.
A note as regards size: Excerpts is the roughly same dimensions as House Hunting and Outskirts, but has a landscape orientation like Bright Black World, which makes it somewhat easier to manage. I can sit at my work desk and more or less happily flip through it. The four double-gatefolds make it slightly unwieldy, and it will have to live on a table or something, which is, I guess, only a problem due to the neighborhood in which I live.
An aside: some years ago, I kept a rotating selection of books on the coffee table. A neighbor came for Eid or something, and happened to pick up Saul Leiter’s Early Black & White and started flipping through. I didn’t think anything about it, but when he suddenly looked shocked, slammed the book shut, just-as-quickly composed himself and casually slid the book back into its sleeve with its sibling, and moments later excused himself, never to again return, I remembered that there are many naked women in Early Black & White, and beg forgiveness only from Allah azza wa jall. Since then, it’s been landscapes and street scenes featuring few, if any, women, clothed or otherwise: I like the brother, and am sorry that he feels uncomfortable to return to my home.
If you notice the Adult Content advisory on the unboxing video, you may understand my misgivings about leaving Excerpts from Silver Meadows lying about with its wholly-PG siblings. And if I can’t keep it on the coffee table with the others, I really don’t know where I’ll store it… Though, given that the particular photo-inclined brother no longer comes here, and given that nobody else seems to give one solitary care about my photobook (or photography) hobby, it’s probably safe to keep it in on the bottom or in the middle of a pile, and not advertise it too much. I feel really conflicted about this: on one hand, I appreciate and respect my neighbors and family; on the other… there is no other, but, really, I want to look at this book more often than I will if sits on the bottom of a pile in a room I rarely visit, and I’d love to have some friends to study this book, and others, alongside and learn from. Oh well.
If you’re unaware, Excerpts from Silver Meadows is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure story… Sure, it’s largely autobiographical, featuring pictures of Hido’s parents, some of himself (I think) as a child, some ephemera from his dad’s High School football days, and the like, but if you didn’t know it was Hido’s parents, it could almost be yours… if you’re 50-70 years old or so. I’m a bit young: they don’t look like my parents or my grandparents, but I recognize them as belonging to the past, to my past, as part of my history, real or imagined. Hido mixed the few archival photographs with recent pictures that look archival, pictures made in older homes and apartments, in older neighborhoods, of both beautiful people—his aunt and mother, the model Khrystyna who sometimes resembles his mother, and other times morphs into, really, whoever she wants to—and rather more ordinary, everyday people, beautiful in their own right, no doubt, if perhaps less loved by the camera (and set up in rooms that are less loved, and not only by the camera). And he used an older Instamatic 126 camera alongside his Pentax 67 to add some softness and lens flare, and push contemporary photographs further into the past or, rather, shift them further into, coax them out of distant foggy memory.
I keep trying to figure out “when” Excerpts takes place. It’s a fool’s errand, and I know it, and I’m sure Hido meant it to happen. The archival stuff is mostly from the 1950s or early 1960s, I think; the homes and apartments and motels were built around that time; the few automobiles are more of the late 1970s or 80s, I think;* and the models appear to be in their 20s or 30s, and they worked with Hido in the 2000s. So…
When does Excerpts… take place?
Well, never, really. Maybe some bits of it were informed by Hido’s childhood in Ohio. Some other bits are formed by my life experience, both actual and seen on TV, as I view it. Neither Hido nor I can go home again, and this book somehow builds a world out of that milieu. It’s my dream to make work that tugs my remembered/imagined history in this way, that calls or dredges up so much from viewers. And Excerpts from Silver Meadows fills me with simultaneous feelings of hyper-excited inspiration, admixed with morose recognition of my own lackluster ability and character, and wild ingratitude for my own great privilege and fortune.
If it wasn’t so danged expensive, and so hard to view and store, I might rate Excerpts from Silver Meadows a full 5 stars… As it is, well, it’s a mere 4.7…
At time of writing (February 2022) Excerpts from Silver Meadows is long out of print and rather expensive on the used market. If history holds, Nazraeli might reprint it for the 20th anniversary (or before), so maybe be patient and get a new copy with new scans and all in several short years. It deserves it. Excerpts is a great one. For me, it’s up there with The Americans and American Surfaces and Hiromix. There’s very little in common with any of these books, of course, except that they all fill me with this strange sense of gloomy inspiration, the desire to make something and knowledge that whatever I make will never even get close.
*I don’t know cars, but the truck looks like a 1970s model Dodge a friend had for a bit in High School.