Photobooks of 2022: Todd Hido

 Baldwin Lee

It feels like every year provides a bounty of inspiring books, but several of the ones included this year were very special and noteworthy. And, not purposefully, but interestingly, many of the books that caught my attention this year had to do with reconsidering the history of photography, by recreating it, reconstructing it, analyzing/dissecting it, and subjecting it to scientific analysis.


SCUMB Manifesto by Justine Kurland, Mack 

Justine Kurland has rightfully received much praise for her extraordinary book, where she cuts up and re-assembles books by the white male photography canon. Literally dissecting, and then reassembling the history of photography is a brilliant point of departure, but what sometimes seems to be missing in the descriptions of her work is how gorgeous and satisfying the resulting collages are in their own right. Kurland’s compositions are both striking and nuanced, and waltz over the history of photography without being repetitive in form, but instead respond in an organic and specific way to each body of work. Her command of collage is just masterful.

The Never Taken Images by F&D Cartier, Scheidegger & Spiess

When I was a college student in 1989, I was incredibly fortunate that my education coincided with the 150th anniversary of photography, marked by a breakthrough innovation in 1839 by William Henry Fox Talbot. Talbot understood that exposing a latent image on chemically treated light-sensitive paper was one step toward photography, but without being able to fix the images (ie stopping the exposure process), photographic images remained as ephemeral as the moments they attempted to capture, and would continue to darken to obscurity. 

150 years later, seemingly every museum around the world presented their own exhibit on that historical milestone. I saw The Art of Fixing a Shadow at the National Gallery in DC, curated by Sarah Greenough and David Travis, and this particular exhibition made such an impression on me that I can remember it even so many years later. Picking up on this thread, The Never Taken Images is a book about historical collections of unexposed photo paper from the 1880s - 1990s that have purposefully not been fixed, and have been allowed to change color over time. Recorded with great precision and diligence, what Francoise and Daniel Cartier have done is intersected systems of organization with the scientific process of observation. And the result, far from being dry or technical, is surprisingly moving and emotional. Beautiful in the way of the paintings of Agnes Martin, in that they revel in the pleasure of organization and structure being applied to something that is handmade and ultimately ephemeral. And the end result, this exacting presentation of years of light experiments, is somehow both simultaneously rigorous and spiritual.

Baldwin Lee by Baldwin Lee, Hunters Point Press

It is rare that one comes across an entire body of work that is so wonderfully seen but has not been widely shared. At this point, many eloquent articles have been written about Baldwin Lee, but the shock of the power of the images outlasts any novelty of them being “undiscovered” for so long.  Walker Evans (one of Lee’s photography teachers), once said that there is no such thing as documentary, only documentary style. Lee’s work is a perfect example of this idea: looking deeper at his work, it becomes apparent that the photographic subjects are not only aware of the photographer, but also have agency in their poses and depictions. 

His teacher may have once hidden a 35mm camera inside his coat to capture truly candid portraits of subway riders unawares for Many Are Called, but Lee deliberately worked with a view camera, which would not allow him to pass by unnoticed or surreptitiously grab a quick street shot. When using that kind camera, artistic choices become, out of technical necessity, more intentional. And the interaction with subjects becomes, longer, slower, and more considered. One of the things that shines through in Lee’s photographs is that the people being photographed don’t just exude a sense of comfort around the photographer, but that they are actively collaborating in their portraits. The photographer seemingly disappears from the scene, and works in service of the subjects, instead of the other way around. 

This is an exceptional body of work.

Becoming Van Leo, Archive Books

This three volume set is an amazing dive into the 60 years of prolific, imaginative, and often playful work by the late studio photographer Leon Boyadijian, eventually known as Van Leo. It is an incredibly comprehensive and thoughtful examination of the output of an exuberant and curious photographer.

The first volume is culled from years of studio portraits in Cairo, with a focus on actors and entertainers. Much like a painter facing a blank canvas, a studio photographer needs to constantly innovate and iterate so the results are not overly repetitious. Not content to just use his customers as subjects, Van Leo also turned the camera on himself in a wide-ranging collection of self-portraits which comprise the second volume. Again, he exhibits a freeform of innovation and variety, never settling on a formula, but always experimenting with new poses, new lighting, new techniques. The third volume is dedicated to his extensive lifetime collection of ephemera, suitably wide-ranging. The format of the books rejects a linear timeline narrative of an artist’s progression and instead groups his works by his passions, which seems like a much more fitting tribute to a photographer motivated by his own incessant need to create, and then create some more, and then to keep creating.

Master Rituals II : Weston’s Nudes by Tarrah Krajnak, TBW

Photography about photography can be such a tricky business. But when it is done well, it is a deeply satisfying conversation between past and present. In Tarrah Krajnak’s beautiful new book, Master Rituals II: Weston’s Nudes, the photographer does much more than simply create work mimicking existing images. Krajnak both recreates a selection of Weston’s iconic nudes and also examines a historical figure in photography. The resulting body of work is not so much about faithfully recreating an image, rather, it is about letting photography do what it does best, record what is there. Like Leon Borensztein’s book, American Portraits, Krajnak includes the edges of the photo in her final image that most would crop out, showing details of how the image is made, including the bulb release in the artist’s hand to show authorship, and the 
cinderblocks and environmental constructions which show the necessity of resourcefulness in transforming a space to get that picture just the way she wanted. 

Todd Hido (born in Kent, Ohio, 1968) wanders endlessly, taking lengthy road trips in search of imagery that connects with his own memories. Through his unique landscape process and signature color palette, Hido alludes to the quiet and mysterious side of suburban America—where uniform communities provide for a stable façade—implying the instability that often lies behind the walls. His photographs are in many private and public collections, including the Getty, Los Angeles; Whitney Museum of American Art; MoMA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Notably, Pier 24 Photography holds the archive of all his published works. He has published more than a dozen books, including the award-winning monographs by Nazraeli Press, House Hunting (2001) and Excerpts from Silver Meadows (2013), as well as the innovative B-Sides Box Set that function as a companion piece. His Aperture titles include Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude (2014), part of The Photography Workshop series, and the mid-career survey Intimate Distance: Twenty-Five Years of Photographs, A Chronological Album (2016). His latest book, Bright Black World, was released by Nazraeli in the Fall of 2018. Hido is also a collector, and over the last twenty-five years has created one of the most notable photobook collections, which was featured in Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books (2019).


Baldwin Lee by Baldwin Lee, Hunters Point Press
Master Rituals II : Weston’s Nudes by Tarrah Krajnak, TBW

Master Rituals II : Weston’s Nudes by Tarrah Krajnak, TBW