Tag Archives: Todd Hido

Outside – inside, is it a fantasy? (Assignment 4)


The Brief: Take one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light and use it to create a set of between 6 – 10 images with a linking theme.

For this assignment I chose to use artificial light as this is not a field I have explored before and I felt it would be a good test of development of skills.  I thought about several possibilities of exploring this.

  1. Street scenes at night:

    This gave me the options of more general shots, such as the lit town hall, or more specific ones like the exterior of the local pub.

  2. Gigs:

    This definitely was a possibility, as the light is very interesting, all of the above images are as shot on the same night without a change in the white balance.

  3. Car lights at night (road shots with extended times).
  4. Fireworks (wrong time of year).

However, I was walking home one evening and this was the view though my window.

House window.

I found this an interesting view and decided to explore the concept of looking through the window.


a. When I started thinking about the concept of lit windows I remembered a painting I had seen at the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art many years ago. Avril Paton is a Glasgow based artist who painted a series of images of Glasgow tenement flats from the outside, often with lit windows, looking in on the life inside. In these images the light is usually warm and intimate.


b. Rut Blees Luxemburg’s image of tower blocks give a similar feeling, and utilise similar colours, concentrating on golds and browns. Images can be seen in the Guardian article below. ‘Towering Inferno’ is an example of this, but although the colours are warm, the images are massive, and give an overview of the flats, not similar to the more intimate views I was looking for in my series.


c. Todd Hunter has explored the concept of home at length in several series of works, one of which ‘The Ghetto‘, is a 3D model of the street he lived in, with colour transparencies place within the doors and window, lit from within. You have to walk along the model to look into the rooms.

There is also a series of other images taken within the rooms of people who lived (and often still do) on that street. These images and the display had been taken in response to an article in a local newspaper which described the area as ‘a blot on the landscape‘ (Tomhunter.org, 2017).

sp 2777 001

Ghetto 6 © Tom Hunter, with permission from Tom Hunter.

d. Todd Hido has also utilised artificial light, taking both outdoor images of houses at night and inside images. Like Tom Hunter, these are not beautiful in the traditional sense, but tell you a lot about the lives of people living in modern America, however these rely on the rooms themselves to tell the story, not the people within the rooms. I felt this was more in line with my idea.

The Process:

I took a long series of images at a cottage we were staying in in the country in Dumfries and Galloway. It was well away from any town, and the only light in the evening came from the lights in the cottage itself. I took some of the images handheld, with the ISO set to 6400, and the rest of the images using a tripod with the ISO at 800. I used a fully manual mode throughout. I have discovered that using manual settings slows me down and makes me think more about what I am focusing on and which bit of the image I want to have exposed in most.. It was not easy to use the tripod outside as the ground around the cottage is very uneven, and it was tricky to get a stable and straight image, so some of the ‘better’ shots were actually handheld, in spite of the high ISO. A more stable tripod would have helped here.

Images were taken from outside, looking at and through the windows, and inside. I did not ‘tidy up’ in advance of taking the images as I was looking to show the contrast between the outside images, where you could imagine almost anything, and the inside reality.

The images were processed in Lightroom CC, with minimal changes. I did not alter the white balance as it feels accurate for the lighting conditions and what I wanted to show.

Contact Sheets:

Initial contact sheet for all the images:

Selected images marked with exposure, aperture and ISO:

I spent some time thinking about how, and which images to choose. I was not sure whether to stay with a given orientation or whether to mix between landscape and portrait. Most of them were portrait due to the nature of the windows so I chose to go with these, – but some of the individual images were more pleasing as landscape.

I also took some images that showed a person, and although they were interesting felt that this distracted from the overall idea of the set. The other possibility was pictures taken later in the evening, where the outside of the cottage was effectively black, and only the windows showed. This image combines both those ideas.

With people.jpg

Final Images:

Sunroom - outsideSunroom - insideLivingroom -outsideLivingroom - insideKitchen - outsideKitchen - insideBathroom -outsideBathroom - insideBedroom - outsideBedroom - inside


My idea here was to show the difference between what you see, and therefore can imagine, when looking from outside of a picturesque country cottage to what is actually happening inside the same rooms. Fantasy versus reality. I chose not to show any people in this set of images, leaving them quite stark and factual.  Overall, I am fairly pleased with the set. In some of the images the inside light is very bright, and might benefit from more post processing – but the significant contrasts were there, and in this case, I did not wish to ‘play’ with the truth any more than minimally.


Paton, A. (2017). [online] Avrilpaton.co.uk. Available at: https://avrilpaton.co.uk/portfolios/glasgow [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

the Guardian. (2009). Photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg explores the public spaces of cities. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/gallery/2009/mar/09/rut-blees-luxemburg-photography [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

Toddhido.com. (2017). House Hunting. [online] Available at: http://www.toddhido.com/househunting.html [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

Tomhunter.org. (2017). The Ghetto Series | Tom Hunter. [online] Available at: http://www.tomhunter.org/the-ghetto-series/ [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].



The Beauty of Artificial Light


Images taken by artificial light have a different quality from those taken by natural light, however, that does not mean that they are all similar or that the colour palates or feelings invoked by those images are limited. The four photographers discussed below show a range of images taken at night or in the evening without the use of flash. Google searches of the images give an overview of the colours and contrasts between them.

Rut Blees Luxemburg (born 1967) has taken images at night with a medium format camera. These are very considered images. She says she will wander the streets and only take a few images a month. In the series ‘Leibesleid’ the images are intimate, of small, rarely considered areas, the edge of a street, a corner with writing on a wall, steps going down into water. She says, in an interview with Campany ‘space that allows for a moment of repose…… the quieter things are the more significant the sound’ (Campany, 2006).  The images are presented in a book along with writings by Alexander Garcia Düittmann which while not describing the them, rather talk to them as in a conversation with a lover. Luxemburg has also done a further series of images on a much grander scale, also at night, of the city and the tower blocks. An example is the image ‘Towering Inferno’ – a tower block at night looking straight into the windows from another tower. The colour palate of both series is very limited, golden yellows with browns, never quite absolute blacks. They are full of life, even though the people are not present, they have just stepped out of sight. A recent interview for Photoworks says ‘One can also think about the city as a ‘character’ in these photograph, one that’s alluring, open, glowing even… yet also ambiguously wet, slippery and dark.’ (Photoworks, 2017).

A simple google search for her images produced this, showing the limited colour palate and the coherence of her images:


There is a shocking contrast here between the alluring golds and the harsh red and black that was seen in the recent images of the Grenfell Tower fire. Life versus death pointed up by the colours without even the need for the stories.

Brassaï (1899 – 1984) was fascinated by night scenes and some of his most famous work is shown in ‘Paris de Nuit’. These are very different, often spacious scenes, not intimate even though they often show people as well as the places. The light is harsh and clean.


He is quoted as being influenced by the painter Georges de la Tour (1593 – 1652), who painted many pictures of people by candlelight. Interestingly de la Tour also mainly used a golden/brown warm colour palate. It would be interesting to know what colours the Brassaï images would have been if he had had the opportunity of using colour rather than black and white.


Georges de la Tour (public domain)

Sato Shintaro’s (born 1980) images of Tokyo ‘Night Life’ are startling in their intensity, using highly saturated colour to show the neon signs and the vibrancy possible in artificial light. All colours are present. The images are fascinating, the city is shown as a place that is busy, alive and challenging but confusing. However, he has also taken a series of images ‘Tokyo Twilight Zone’ with more limited colour palates, red/green, blue/white. These are much softer, calmer, less confusing. It is hard to visualise that they are the same place as the other images.

Todd Hido (born 1968) is another photographer who has utilised artificial light in his night images of houses, shown in his book ‘House Hunting’. He describes finding one of the houses ‘I couldn’t even see across the street. I remember coming out of the flatlands and hitting this fog and it was just the most surreal and creepy neighborhood I’d ever seen. It had all the right combinations. I remember seeing that for the first time and just being blown away by it all … that sort of changed everything’ (Berton, 2006). The images of these houses at night have muted colours, greys and browns, mysterious, lacking in detail. They could be anyone’s house and are only identified by numbers not place names, often in a single colour palate. They are not dissimilar to his daytime images shown in ‘A Road Divided’, which are misty, often partially defocused evocative images. His style remains recognisable at all times of day.


Berton, J. (2006). Todd Hido and the ‘Art of Darkness’ (2006) | #ASX. [online] AMERICAN SUBURB X. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/09/theory-todd-hido-art-of-darkness.html [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Blees Luxemburg, R. and Garcia Düttmann, A. (2000). Liebeslied. UK: Black Dog Pub.

Campany, D. (2006). UNION. [online] Union-gallery.com. Available at: http://www.union-gallery.com/content.php?page_id=653 [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Google.co.uk. (2017). brassai paris de nuit – Google Search. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=brassai paris de nuit [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Google.co.uk. (2017). rut blees luxemburg liebeslied – Google Search. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=rut blees luxemburg liebeslied [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Google.co.uk. (2017). sato shintaro – Google Search. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=sato shintaro [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Hido, T. (2002). House hunting. Tucson, Ariz: Nazareli.

Hido, T. (2010). A Road Divided. Nazareli.

Photoworks. (2017). Jerwood/Photoworks Awards Mentor: Rut Blees Luxemburg | Photoworks. [online] Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/interview-rut/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Sato-shintaro.com. (2017). Sato Shintaro Photo Gallery. [online] Available at: http://sato-shintaro.com/m/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Toddhido.com. (2017). Todd Hido. [online] Available at: http://www.toddhido.com/homes.html [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].