Snap the shutter

There are so many pictures that when you snap the shutter, that’s the end of their existence. It’s done. It never comes to life. You see it on a contact sheet, and you don’t even look twice. The good pictures all have a certain power or electricity to them. For a picture to have a long life it has to speak to me, have some meaning for me. And then, of course, I hope it contains enough space to hold a range of meanings for others. You might have to take 10,000 frames to produce 500 really good pictures.

Todd Hido

To create a narrative

It really doesn’t take too many different components to create a narrative. There are three basic elements: person, place, emotion. Sometimes I’ll supply actions or the aftermath of actions in my work.
You can do almost anything with these few fundamental components. You can tell a really complicated story, and that’s what I’m after. I’ve loaded the deck for meaning to occur.

Todd Hido

Around the suburbs

When I’m driving around the suburbs, I see them as if they were a set where dramas are unfolding all the time. I’m setting the stage for an imagined story.

Todd Hido


I keep this list of rules for art students in my office, the same list that John Cage kept in his studio. They’re by Sister Corita Kent, and the first rule is, ‘Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.’ It’s okay to stay in the same place for a while and to trust the desire to do so. I’d go to the same suburbs and make pictures of houses at night with lights on. I’d see that a picture was really good and then make another one to see what happened. I’d go back again and again, making pictures in the same places. Slowly but surely the work evolved. I don’t think our human nature lets us truly repeat ourselves. Repetition is just part of the creative process.

Todd Hido

Making and analyzing

I don’t analyze my photographs like this while I’m shooting. Making and analyzing are completely different processes.

Todd Hido


Subconcious in picture

Much of what happens in a picture is subconscious at the time I make it. I’m really seeing what’s there later, when a picture is done. Joan Didion puts it this way, ‘I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.’ I feel the same way about photography. I learn things from my work about what I’m thinking. My mind is way more sophisticated than I realize. Sometimes, I pull things out of my hat while I’m working and later I think, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’

Todd Hido

Women in War

October 1942. Milwaukee, Wis. “Supercharger plant workers. To replace men who have been called to armed service, many young girls like 19-year-old Jewel Halliday are taking jobs never before held by women. Her job is shuttling workers between two Midwest war plants for Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co.”
Photo by Ann Rosener for the Office of War Information.

Twin Peaks

San Francisco circa 1925. “Auto at Twin Peaks — North Peak seen from South Peak.” 5×7 glass negative from the Wyland Stanley collection.

City Lights

New Yorkers are lining up with umbrellas in hand to se e Charlie Chaplin’s classic film “City Lights”.