Thursday, December 16, 2010

On my coffee table: Todd Hido's A Road Divided

Cover of A Road Divided via Amazon.

The photo doesn't do justice to this gorgeous oversized book. In the future, I'll take my own photo of the book cover, but I didn't want to keep putting off this post. I received this book as a birthday present (I'm loving the wish list feature!) and it is even better than I had imagined.

image from the book via flavorwire

Nazraeli Press is responsible for the the gorgeous quality of the printing. When I shop for photo books, the publisher plays a large role in my decision to buy. Obviously, the photographer is the main factor, but if the book is with Steidl, Twin Palms/Twelvetrees, or Nazraeli, then I am more likely to prioritize it. I envy the reviewers who get free copies in the mail. Somebody hook me up with that job.

In any case, this post certainly won't be a good audition for a job as a reviewer. My point here is share what's out there by looking at the books that make their way to the hallowed space of the man-cave concrete coffee table.

Todd Hido first made it onto my radar when I saw a copy of his book House Hunting at the Centre Pompidou bookstore. Would that I had bought it then when it was only $75! Now it will cost me at least $169 if I finally break down and get a copy.

A page of A Road Divided (and somebody's finger!) via Bookofdays.

Many (if not most) of the photos in this book were taken through the windshield of his car, often through rain, fog, or ice. The images convey the kind of beautiful melancholy that American culture usually avoids. The French, however, savor the feeling. All the more reason to begin the work with a quote by Baudrillard.

The painterly quality of the photos doesn't seem to come from the aesthetic tradition of Steichen, but rather from the technological tradition of the most American means of transportation. Think about how much of the world we see through the "lens" of a car window. Hido shows us landscape in a way that is entirely familiar and, to wax Freudian, "uncanny" because we immediately suppress one landscape as we pass by another and another and another at a speed that doesn't give us time for static contemplation. Pause to look at Hido's book, however, and you will start to see things that your mind has pushed aside. The price to slow down and see it is less than the cost of filling the tank of your minivan—at least for now. Hido's Outskirts, published in 2002, will now cost you $650.00. Photo books, like gas, just keep going up.