Phonar: Task 1 – Letter to Todd Hido

As part of this task I had to make communication with the author of my assignment. I chose to write Todd Hido a letter rather than something online or digital such as an email as he as an interest in curating photobooks and spends a lot of time teaching workshops and therefore I thought a letter would be more personal and tactile just like his photobooks. The letter is as followed:

Dear Todd Hido,

 I am writing you this letter to inform you that I have recently completed and responded to the assignment that you set in the Photographer’s Playbook entitled Expose Yourself. My name is Charlotte Pattinson and I am currently a second year BA (Hons) photography student at Coventry University whose own practice mainly focuses on the landscape. My photography tutor personally set me this task out of all of the others in the book, as it was either relevant to my own photography practice or to allow me to experiment with different methodologies.

In order to fully immerse myself in the task and gain a greater understanding as to why you set the assignment you did, I began researching into your own practice and bodies of work. Your body of work Roaming resonated with me the most due to the nature of the journey and the snapshot aesthetic of the images to tell a narrative. I began to notice that you often revisited places you lived or visited during your childhood and when reflecting on my own work I noticed how often a lot of the scenes that I photograph are a subconscious reflection of my childhood memories and the places I have visited. Often my body of work begins by researching the area in detail before I get there and having a rough idea of what I would like to photograph at each site then after each shoot I will begin to refine what I photograph. However when undertaking the assignment you set I changed the way I took my images.

 The task called for me to go to a place I have not been before and take as many images as I could of the details I would usually miss in everyday life. I was not able to take an overnight trip due to financial circumstances and not being able to drive made my trip more limited but I decided to visit somewhere in my home county of Lincolnshire I have never been before. Having never visited the town of Stamford before and having no previous knowledge of it I went there with no expectations of what to photograph. I began to walk around the town slowly and started to become more aware of my surroundings. When deciding to take the image I tried not to think so much why I wanted to take it – I took photographs of details that captured my attention. In turn I ended up with a lot of architectural images showing the details of the historic buildings and architecture. After reading interviews from you and related this back to the assignment I began to notice that what I decided to photograph during this assignment where I was exposed to a new environment there was a trend in my images. This has shown me what I am attracted to when making images and most importantly what I am interested in.

  Kind Regards,

 Charlotte Pattinson


Phonar: Task 1 – Step 4&5 (Completed Assignment + Critical Rationale)

For the step 4 of Task 1 I was given the task in the Photographer’s Playbook titled ‘Expose Yourself’ by Todd Hido. After carrying out the other steps and immersing myself in the work and practice of Hido before going to my chosen location this enabled me to get a better sense of his working process and how I could incorporate elements of this into my own images while carrying out the task. Below are the images I have taken for his assignment.


Critical Rationale: The assignment called for me to go to a place I have not been before and take as many photos as I could. Unlike Hido I could not get on a flight or go on an overnight trip due to time and financial constraints. However I was able to visit a place within my own County that I have not been to before and have no previous knowledge on. My chosen location was Stamford in Lincolnshire and I spent the entire day walking around the town. I interpreted the task as being about the details I would not usually notice when walking around a place in every day life rather than the location itself. I tried to look for unusual compositions and details in architecture that would be missed when walking down the street and as a result I became more aware of my surroundings. By walking slowly around Stamford and taking the time to look around my surroundings more I noticed I began to photograph objects and scenes that captured my attention. This aspect of the assignment was greatly influenced by Hido’s own practice of taking images, particularly in his series Roaming in which he documents his journey to places and the small details on route. I found this method helped show me what I am drawn to as a photographer and most of all what I like to photograph. I also experimented more with different angles and different depths of fields to what I normally shoot and this allowed me to see what type of focuses work best with different architecture/scenes.


Phonar Task 1: Step 3 – Image in the style of Todd Hido

For the third step of Task 1 I was to make an image in the style of Todd Hido using the research and the supporting image to conduct a critical analysis of his work. Due to posting it on Instagram I tried to keep the supporting text short but detailed in order for the audience to gain a brief insight into his work and how this relates to my own image. Below is larger original version of the image and supporting text. The image can also be found on Instagram here.


I was greatly influenced by Todd Hido’s style of images in his body of work Roaming. My own image is taken from behind the windshield of a car while on a car journey to the location that I was exploring for my assignment.

In his series Roaming, Hido moves away from his early process of working as seen in his night images and opts for a handheld and spontaneous approach to image making. The images are taken through rain streaked car windows of what he observes on his travels. While the images appear to look like film stills the images are taken in the moment with no staging and focus on the journey Hido has taken to get to his destination.

The use of diffused lighting and shooting in dramatic weather conditions combined with the snapshot aesthetic allowed Hido to create an eerie atmosphere. This atmosphere not only depicts the physical act of journeying but also the emotions attached with it such as a sense of longing and loneliness.

Phonar Task 1: Step 2 – Visual Portrait

For step 2 of Task 1 I was to make a visual portrait of Todd Hido using my research into his life and practice and post this on Instagram. The full sized portrait I created can be found below along with the accompanying text and it can also be found on Instagram here.

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To me this is my interpretation of Hido and his work. Taken in my bedroom as the sun was rising the image represents the space I grew up in and how the lighting alters the atmosphere of the room. Much of Hido’s work revisits his childhood suburbs and desolated spaces. “The primary thing that draws me in is where I see something that reminds me of places that i’ve been before that reminds me of where I grew up in Ohio.” His early series Houses at Night showcased various suburban homes lit with a single light source lending a sense of urgency and despair to the otherwise ordinary scenes. Greatly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, Hido’s images created a narrative of suburban dwellings. They appear as cold places where secrets are kept and lies are told – especially at night. Hido describes his narratives as “All of the memories and experiences from my past come together subconsciously and form a kind of fragmented narrative.”

Phonar Task 1: Todd Hido Research

For the second step of my assingment I was to create a visual portrait of the author of my assingment however in order to do this I conducted research into their practice, career and life to understand more about them. The end result of this step will be an image that I post on Instagram of the visual portrait and my supporting research.

Greatly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, Hido’s images created a narrative of suburban dwellings. They appear as cold places where secrets are kept and lies are told – especially at night. Much of Hido’s work revisits his childhood suburbs and desolated spaces. “The primary thing that draws me in is where I see something that reminds me of places that i’ve been before that remind me of where I grew up in Ohio.” His early series Houses at Night (1997) showcased various suburban homes lit with a single light source lending a sense of urgency and despair to the otherwise ordinary scenes.

In an interview Hido explains that the images are signs from his past and the feelings and memories that have subconsciously formed a fragmented narrative and that while taking these images it was difficult not to tell his own story within the work. While undertaking an independent study while in graduate school he received what he claims to be valuable feedback from an art therapist. Hido explains that “He taught me that I was on the right track with my subject matter and gave me the confidence to pursue it. What a gift that was in retrospect.He looked at the beginning of my houses at night, the beginning of my foreclosed home pictures, and the beginning of my portraits—all back in 1995 when I had just two or three of each, and he told me that I was right in the midst of telling the story of my life and that my photographs clearly represented that.”



The images of houses in Hido’s series Houses at Night often show coming through the window and as a result human presence is implied. It can also be said that the quality of the light is a sign of the quality of their presence, making the the picture more about the people inside. This is the element that Hido said he attracted to in the first place – for him he was wondering about what his or her life is like. In relation to this, Hido said that “The lights come on and the inside seeps to the outside.”

The images are all shot on a large format analogue camera and no additional lighting is added to the scene, it is exactly how Hido found it. In addition to this, Hido’s images are mostly a landscape orientation to allow the full house and surrounding environment to be in the shot. When shooting the houses Hido stated that “I do not collaborate or get permission from the owners to make the photographs.I just do it….I’m not the kind of photographer that goes out and creates something from an idea that I preconceived…at least not with landscapes or buildings.” – This is something I will also need to consider when producing my own images for his assingment.

In addition to photographing the exterior of houses Hido also photographs the interiors, many of which are of his childhood house and neighbourhood. Hido explains that he is “very much interested in the loss that happens in the spaces. Walls do talk. I was interested in the family drama that had occurred. A lot of my work is really about home and family…In these spaces I often recognise something of my own unstable childhood in them. Many of the places and people I photograph, resonate with me.”

Phonar Task 1: Initial brief + Step 1

For the first task in the Phonar module I was set a five part assignment. The steps are as followed:

Step 1: Read your assignment thoroughly. Tweet a synopsis of the assignment you have been allocated. Think about how someone could use your synopsis to complete the assignment themselves.

Step 2: Conduct an investigation into the author of your task, learn about their life and career as much as you can. This investigation will be realised with an Instagram post that shares a visual portrait of the author, with some key statements that will enable a reading audience to get some sense of who they are, and what you have discovered about them. 
Whichever way you approach the visual component; you will need to substantiate your decision within your critical rationale (Step 5)

Step 3: Conduct a critical analysis of the author’s work–focus on attaining a sense of how their work may relate to the assignment they have contributed to The Photographer’s Playbook. This critical analysis will be presented in a second Instagram post, with an image you have made in the author’s “style,” that may help illustrate the key points you are making about the work.

Step 4: Complete the assignment. In some instances, this will require adaptation or interpretation, which will need to be clearly articulated in your critical rationale.

Step 5: Write a 250-word critical rationale focused on substantiating the choices you have made at Step 4. Make sure critical language is employed. Where needed include a rational for how you have adapted the assignment/idea.

The main focus in task one is to research the photographer throughly and gain a deeper insight into the photographer themselves and their way of working. This involves creating a visual portrait of them and also creating an image in their style, both pieces need to be supported by research and analyses.

I then need to respond to the assignment written by the photographer in the Photographer’s Playbook. The assignment that I was given was Expose Yourself by contemporary artist and photographer Todd Hido. Due to the nature of the assignment we are allowed to adapt and interoperate them to suit our circumstances, however I will need to provide a rational for any adaptations made.

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My initial thoughts on this task was to begin planning somewhere that I have not been before but I am able to get to. Due to living in a small town with limited transport it proved very difficult to get to cities within 50 miles of me via train due to it taking over 5 hours in some circumstances. This meant that I would have to rely on a lift to my chosen place and as a result it would limit where I could go. Although in the assignment it says go on an overnight trip due to commitments and costs involved I would be unable to do this.

This gave me the idea that I could explore new places within my own county that I have not been before and this would allow me to spend the whole day there and travel back at night. Having grown up in Lincolnshire and lived there all of my life I have visited many of the surrounding villages and tourist attractions such as Lincoln Cathedral, Steep Hill, Belton House…yet there are many places near me that I have not visited yet. I began researching into places within my county that I have not been before and these are the possible places I could visit:

  • Stamford
  • Gibraltar Point
  • Fulbeck
  • Caythorpe
  • Spalding
  • Gainsborough