A Glimmer of Hope

Todd Hido (b. 1968) has fixed his camera on desolate landscapes for over 30 years. His nighttime shots of American suburbs are instantly recognisable with their characteristic mistiness. Elsewhere, rain droplets speckle the lens. The hazy quality and sense of isolation brings to mind the atmospheric fields of Henri Prestes’ work whilst the suburban focus recalls the photography of Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962) and John Barbiaux (b. 1982). Now, viewers are invited into Hido’s scenes through his photo book, The End Sends Advance Warning, which follows on from his show at Bruce Silverstein gallery, New York. It features bleak, rain-spotted scenery and decrepit buildings. Turning through the pages, it feels like an ever-present storm has affected each image. However, Hido always reveals a glimmer of light and hope within the darkness.

It’s unsurprising that Hido has chosen such a bleak title, considering the humanitarian crises and climate disasters affecting the world. The project began with his desire to convey this sense of “doom and destruction.” However, part-way through the process, Hido’s focus shifted; he decided to search for the smallest sparks of hope. In an interview with Aesthetica, he recounts: “I realised I had to focus on beauty and hope, and that was the most meaningful statement I could make about the global situation in which we are living.” These qualities are hard to find, but they are still there. Hido conveys them throughout the book. One shot shows the sun peeking through skies that seem choked with smoke. Elsewhere, our eyes find light emitting from a lamp far off in the distant railway tracks or the warm glow from inside a home.

A sense of solitude adds to the emotional heaviness of many of these images. Even when the sun comes out, there is no one else for miles. One overwhelmingly cloudy shot is lit only by the bright white haze near the horizon line. The inky silhouettes of two houses appear along the treeline alongside an imposing set of lamp posts. Buildings might signal other human beings, but the photographer does not include them in the composition. We are positioned as observers, with no power to intervene in the setting. Nevertheless, human intervention reveals itself in the truck tracks that mark the snow or the prow of a distant ship.

There’s only one human portrait, which comes at the end of the book. It’s not given the significance of being the final image – which is reserved for a rain-spotted vista of sunlight breaking through the trees – but it draws our attention because of its atypical subject matter. We see the figure from the shoulders up, staring out towards the sea and sky. Hido positions us behind them, making use of the rückenfigur device. Applied famously in Caspar David Friedrich’s (1774-1840) Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1817), this is where the viewer sees a person from the back as they survey the view ahead. The effect is a portal into the world of the image. Through this, Hido asks: what action do we take now that we are part of the setting?

Todd Hido: The End Sends Advance Warning | Nazraeli Press


Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Photographs copyright © 2023 by Todd Hido. Copyright © 2023 Nazraeli Press