Todd Hido is an American photographer, now based in San Francisco, who has become well-known for his series on suburban homes across the US. His photos are voyeuristic depictions of the America I grew up with—solemn suburbs with only shy signs of an interior life, proto-iconic suburbs lit by the nightly glow of the news.
They are eerie and provocative—a feat for pictures that seem so minimal. His exterior shots are recognizable for their Instagrammed vibe—they are deceivingly anachronistic. Nonetheless, they are intensely documentarian. They depict the suburban architecture, but look deeper, and it’s obvious that Hido is portraying not the built but the lives that we build.
Hido has a series on foreclosed homes in the LA area, shot in the mid-’90s. They bear the marks of lives lived, some with dilapidation, some with debris unmoved by the evicted. Through Hido’s lenses: The filthy ones I liked best for pictures; they told a better story. In the clean ones, I wondered what was erased. The anonymity of these photographs is part of what intrigues and fascinates. These contextless photos beg viewers to create narratives; they serve as reminders (whether intended or unintended by Hido) to us as architects, as designers, that what we design will be a part of its surroundings—wherever that may be.
To quote Zumthor, what we put out there will be “used and loved, discovered and bequeathed, given away, abandoned, and perhaps even hated—in short, that it will be lived in, in the wildest sense.” It’s a romantic notion, but if nothing else, it at least exists in anticipation. And Hido is very aware of this—the intentionality of showing these homes as solitary, context given only by the foreground and the sky, shows the intended but unplanned lives that we build and exist in, in our built.