Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Photographic Influence of Todd Hido

The imagery captured by Todd Hido is highly thought provoking, not just in terms of subject matter, composition and design, but also on a physiological level. Whether he’s using the window of a car as a filter, warping the perspective or overall surrounding landscape of a focal subject, exposing a photograph for a long period time for increased saturation and living color, or picking just the right angle to capture a dimly lit street light at the end of a long and eerie street; there is intention behind these choices. Perhaps he is commenting on the subconscious, or maybe the warped perspective that this world has a tendency to take on at times. Regardless of these visual cues, the idea of such gestures to psychedelic drugs or even medication, the imagery can be appreciated on a base level by just about anyone. This, is especially so for those who appreciate the use of color in a medium, but not to discredit his formulaic and well placed compositions, which range from night landscapes, to long exposures indoors.

As an enthusiast of such night photography, shooting dimly lit rooms and nightscapes at the violet hour, I can recognize the value of the processes that come into play with these works. As one of my biggest photographic inspirations, there is something to be said about the moments in waiting that take place during such shooting: the small window of opportunity you often have to get the proper exposure you’re seeking, the search for just the right house with the blue colored yard lights. Not only are these elements that influence such works, but also, especially of “Untitled” spawning from the Fragmented Narratives series, the idea of capturing something that cannot otherwise be seen with the human eye.

This new perception that Hido offers to the viewer brings on an entirely new element of design. To the viewer, these images are often perceived as crystal clear. A vision sought out by the artist and captured just as it was seen. However, for those who understand the planning that goes into long exposure photography, one can only assume that these locations were visited time and time again, studied both in day light, and at night, materials tests and bracketing a must. That being said, Todd Hido’s imagery is likely not only representational simply because the images themselves are filled with such hue, and beauty, but because the artist had a personal connection, if not just for a moment, with each of these locations.

The first of the three images I chose to focus on, though Untitled like the majority of his prints, spawns from Hido’s Homes At Night series, also known as 2424-A. This set of photography focuses in on nightscapes, primarily that of suburbia, in low light situations. Long exposures, ranging anywhere from 30 seconds to ten minutes, are what make these photographs so breathtaking. I found this work particularly moving in terms of my own photography because of the methods behind the magic. Hido would drive around at night looking for just the right light, colors and scenery for his images. What came about from the process, was not only a variety of images that ranged in plethora of color, but compositions that spoke in unison with the eeriness captured by the subjects and time of day. Despite the fact that 2424-A is dissimilar to that of the other photographs in the series, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the depth of field used. The purple and white glow of the snow in the foreground creates a pictorialistic feel; the idea that time stands still. This gives image a dream like quality that cannot be ignored. Such a long exposure on a foggy night would make it appear as though the sky has been painted purple. This creates an abstraction from afar that can be compared to that of a surrealist painting.

It’s easy to read into various stylistic concepts here, although as the viewer we won’t know artist’s true intentions for certain, symbolism aside. We may only go off of what we know, both, by looking at the image apart from speaking to the artist himself. Of course, the vantage point, as well as the imagery alludes to a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ scenario; perhaps the romanticism emanating from the light at the horizon line where the roadway stops serves as some sort of a reference to a more personal memory. It’s no wonder that the very questions that arise from the image are the same ones that perplex and shift perspective onto those who see it.

Despite the fact that none of the images I sought to zero in on are particularly famous of Hido’s body of work, the second image, also Untitled, in my opinion is the most striking of his series, Fragmented Narratives. Another long exposure is likely the cause of such vivid and vibrant colors, although in this case, it’s the composition of objects in the room that resonates a certain feeling of disconnect. No doubt the white phantom glow displaying outward from the television on the wall is peculiar enough in itself. However, frame placement is key. The amount of actual darkness in the room is evident in spite of the exposure used: I’m guessing the time only lies somewhere between 20 seconds to 2 minutes here. Shadows that encompass the wall create a ghostly reminder of something that once was. Adding to this is the wraithlike bedsheets, ruffled and left as is; a cue that someone is or was just in the room. This picture tells a story that varies depending on the user. This is a narrative that speaks to me in terms of technology and the affects on human connectivity: a glow of what once was a human presence in an empty room of clutter and white noise. The deep blue hue of the wall offers a hint of sadness to the overall feeling of the environment.

Last of the images I was particularly drawn to, comes from Hido’s ‘Landscapes’ series. One of the things that really sets this image apart from the rest of the photography we see in this technological era is the artist’s knack for using natural filters. This idea is abhorrently relevant to the current social norm that has taken over the internet as well as the way we know and use social networking today: perhaps you may know it as ‘Instagram’. A beautiful exposure taken through the glass of a car window, rain settling all around, time appears to stand still. A color palette than ranges from cool purples to deep yellows, mutters a sense of warmth, hope. And though I cannot tell whether the sun is rising or setting, I cannot help feel, like it’s rays are pulling me in, engulfing me with the beautiful depth of field and blurred focal framing that Todd has so brilliantly created.

I feel something when I look at this work. It’s powerful, and it reminds me that we as humans live and dream in color. Todd Hido isn’t afraid to push the envelope, to question what is real from imaginary. He does this by utilizing photographic techniques, living in the moment; and his relationships with his subject matter shows throughout his imagemaking. With my senior show opening April 28th, I couldn't help but pay homage to the body of work that has been so influential in my own life. Keep an eye out internet, there's a storm coming.

Who inspires you to push forward in the things that you do? Why?


will parris said...

I hadn't heard of Todd Hido, but loved your write up on him & the images, definitely going to look into him though. Wonderfully written. Next time you're in Southern California, let me know, would love to go shooting

Everyday, Toes Wide Open said...

First thing that came to mind was this Nick Cave music video. Music's a little sappy if you wish to turn it down:

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