10 Questions With… Todd Hido

Todd Hido (b. 1968) has a distinctive approach to photography. Since the 1990s, he has captured cinematic suburban scenes and desolate landscapes through his driver’s seat windshield. Condensation, dirt and grit often make their way into these shots, blurring the lines between painting and photography. The result is a dreamy body of work that teeters towards the surreal. In his latest show, The End Sends Advance Warning at Bruce Silverstein in New York, Hido ventures beyond the usual setting of American Suburbia and looks for inspiration in the Hawaiian Islands, the shores of the Bering Sea and the Nordic Fjords above the Arctic Circle. The message is one of foreboding, anxiety and fear – tinged with a glimmer of hope for the future.

A: Tell us about how you got into working behind the lens – where did it all begin?
In the 1980s, my friends and I were obsessed with BMX: building homemade ramps and creating dirt racing tracks in the woods behind our neighbourhood. I first picked up a camera at that point – just like any kid who wants to record what they are doing all day. That is really how it all started.

A: What’s the focus or message behind your latest exhibition at Bruce Silverstein?
When I first started making this body of work, I felt it was imperative to communicate with the doom and destruction that I felt was coming, but not in a dogmatic way. At some point during the process, however, there was a tipping point. I realised I had to focus on beauty and hope, and that was the most meaningful statement I could make about of the global situation in which we are living.

A: Do you have a favourite piece in the show?
TH: I love them all – or I would not have shared them! My curating philosophy is “all killer, no filler.”

A: Who – or what – are your biggest inspirations?
TH: For a long time, my inspiration has come from the world of photography books. I have a library of 8,500 that I’ve been collecting, bit by bit, since 1988. Whenever I need inspiration, I simply look at those books. It seems, these days, that if you want to see what’s happening in the medium of photography, the pulse of it is in the book. That’s where things start, it’s where I learn of new artists and work. It’s such a vibrant format.

A: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
TH: Being asked to create covers for seven or eight Raymond Carver books. Tess Gallagher, who became the shepherd of Carver’s work after his death, was deeply involved in every single aesthetic choice, which I respected greatly. I was very lucky to be able to have my images become the visual voice for Carver’s titles, some of which were most instrumental to his career. I’m honoured somebody thought that my pictures could visually represent, or even be a part of, in my opinion, some of the 20th century’s greatest literary works. I love that my images, much like Carver’s stories, are about the complicated lives we all lead. 

A: Do you have a “signature” technique or approach? What is it?
TH: Whether I’m photographing at night, or through the windshield on a rainy day, or photographing a person in a studio, that I feel like there’s a commonality that occurs between the feeling that the picture conveys or the emotion it conveys that is similar regardless of the subject matter. My approach is based in reality, and I always make sure that no matter how magical something may seem, it actually happened, and my pictures are real, and they are the truth, as filtered by my own perception of the world.

A: If you could do any other job, or be an expert in any other field, what would it be?
I’m lucky enough to have found the one thing I think I’m best at, and that’s what I try to do every day.

A: Who are your favourite artists working right now?
TH: The musician Nick Cave blows my mind, as does the painter Marlene Dumas. I aspire to make images that prompt the same kind of profound emotions I get when I look at, or listen to, their work.

A: Is there anything you hope audiences take away from the show?
TH: That hope and beauty are essential. We desperately need and have to fight for them, tooth and nail.

A: What are you working on right now? Anything for us to look forward to?
TH: There’s a documentary created by my dear friend Jason Momoa that will premiere on HBO Max in early 2024. It’s as behind the scenes as one could ever get; they spent so much time shooting with me over the last three years and I’m incredibly happy with the beautiful cinematic visuals he and Brian Mendoza have made. I’m also very honored, according to Momoa, to be making images that have a visual legacy in cinema. I’m so excited for this show to be released soon. It is called On the Roam, and it is by far the most comprehensive, and beautifully shot, one-hour-long documentary about how I do things. No one has ever made images of me working that bring people into my world as completely as Momoa has been able to do.

brucesilverstein.com | Until 13 January

All images courtesy Todd Hido and Bruce Silverstein, New York.