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Images courtesy of Todd Hido and Stephen Wirtz Gal
Images courtesy of Todd Hido and Stephen Wirtz Gallery

Talking to Todd Hido

American-based photographer takes eerie photographs of empty houses and lost women in surburbia

American Todd Hido is best known for his photographs of a haunting suburbia in ‘Homes At Night’. Widely exhibited in the United States and Europe, his eerie exteriors project feelings of unease and isolation, as the presence of people is devoid. Hido uses only available light and long exposures that make these saturated images almost glow off the print. His exploration into themes of loneliness continues through to his interior shots which are again absent of people, but suggest that a presence was once there – a door left ajar, a chair turned over, creased bedding. Less celebrated are his series of portraits, again set in vacuous places but this time with models. There is something intriguing about these that hold your gaze, as amateur, scantily clad models pose awkwardly for the camera.
Dazed Digital: What attracted you to suburbs in the first place?
Todd Hido: I definitely remember one day driving up a hill to a suburban neighborhood in the south of San Francisco and I found this completely fogbound neighborhood that very much reminded me of the place I grew up in Ohio. I started making pictures there that night and I've been visiting the suburbs ever since. That was about 15 years ago.
DD: There is a very unsettling atmosphere throughout your photography, is this always intentional and why do you choose to shoot such sinister shots? Are you a moody guy?
Todd Hido: I'm actually not a moody guy at all! But I can clearly see that my work is. I guess I'm attracted to that cinematic feeling where something's about to happen. Kind of like a pregnant moment. I'm very much attracted to that kind of narrative element.
DD: Your work has a clear style - does anyone inspire or influence this?
Todd Hido: I am very much influenced by my past. I was a student of Larry Sultan's about 15 years ago and he remained a good friend until he passed away last year. He was a clear influence on my work and I think that the most important thing that Larry taught me was to draw from within, to use your own history as the basis for your art.
DD: The quality of your images is incredible, what camera and film do you prefer to shoot with?
Todd Hido: Thank you--I appreciate that. I have been using the same camera for the last 20 years--a Pentax 6 x 7 medium format camera and I've been using Kodak Portra of 400NC film forever. One of the main reasons that my work looks the way it does is because I've printed in the darkroom myself. I'm still using all analog technology and I go to the darkroom a couple of times a week to print. This is a very important part of my process. In most of my work nothing is staged, I shoot like a documentarian, but I print like a painter, often my contact sheets look nothing like my final prints.
DD: Your latest work has been more portrait based, is this a change in direction? What’s next?
Todd Hido: Yes and no. I have actually shot portraits as long as I've been shooting houses but more recently I've begun to combine the two as I find that I really like what happens when you put a person with a place. It tends to open the door wider for more complex storytelling. And yes, I definitely have been moving more in that direction lately working with blending photographs taken with an old snapshot camera from the 70s. It definitely adds another layer to the story.
DD: There is a definite movie-like feel to your images, as you present the viewer with open-ended scenes. Could you see yourself going into films?
Todd Hido: At this point I don't think so as I really like the singular challenge of making images one at a time and then combining them into a simple sequence. There is a really great quote the Lewis Baltz said that I think sums this up: "Photography is a profound corner that sits in between literature and film"
Todd Hido has produced several books namely ‘House Hunting’ and ‘Between the Two’ (both Nazraeli Press)