Speak, Memory: Restaging the Past in Todd Hido’s Silver Meadows

The press release for Todd Hido’s recent exhibit Excerpts from Silver Meadows describes it as a “metaphorical reckoning with his own past,” and indeed many of images look as they might in memory or old polaroids: blurry, the colors faded or over-saturated or yellowing, and darkening towards the edges. Hido even sets up many of the shots to replicate how these scenes would have been experienced in the most mundane moments, shooting houses from the vantage point of the driveway, or perhaps the neighbor’s driveway, through frosted, clouded, or rain-spattered car windows. He manages to find rich colors in scenes most would dismiss as “gray”: snow might have a rosy tone, an overcast sky edges toward purple. His outdoor scenes comprise a sort of anti-Kinkadian vision of the midwestern Anytown — their very imperfections, both haphazard and contrived, create an atmosphere that has mood without nostalgic sentimentality, darkly beautiful and quiet and grim.

Hido’s photographs of women, however, imply that the shabby trailers and tract houses standing in the gloom with their lights shining through the windows (a recurrent Hido motif) are not a simple reflection of atmosphere but in fact a concealment of the human turmoil within their homes. One cannot look at these deceptively banal settings in the same way after seeing their presumed inhabitants. Hido seems to have created three characters out of the real or mythologized women of his memory and imagination: the melancholic teenager, the “desperate housewife,” and the Marilynesque sexpot. They exude different kinds of sexual availability, but all seem wounded, both physically and spiritually. A young naked girl slouches on the floor next to a bed, her face expressionless. She seems as blasé about her own nudity (and its implied purpose) as about the unexplained fresh scars on her breast and ribs. A seemingly conventional adult woman–pearls, perm, and perfectly-lined eyes — stands in a completely unbuttoned cardigan, leaning forward slightly as if to encourage her breasts to spill out of her strapless bra. Her face looks drawn, on the verge of tears. She is sexually challenging — or beseeching — and she recalls the housewives Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique, who sought to assuage their dissatisfaction with the narrow domestic life to which they were consigned by a desperate and almost predatory sexual adventurousness outside their own households. (continue reading at photo mag and review Fraction Magazine, or with a slideshow on the Huffington Post)

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2 Responses to Speak, Memory: Restaging the Past in Todd Hido’s Silver Meadows

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