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Thursday, 1 September 2011



December Twilight: Charles Burchfield, 1932-1938 (Wichita Museum of Art)

He creeps round the eerie empty houses at night
the cry of a lost soul illuminating a late window
on foreclosure and dispossession

The night stalker
alone, driving for hours through abandoned
neighborhoods, senses a curious

elation -- calmed for once, for once feeling almost
at home -- as though the light left on in
the vacant house had been lit

there for a ghost -- for him, alone --


Untitled 2152, 1998: photo by Todd Hido (Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery for Contemporary Photography, Cologne)

Untitled 2524, 1999: photo by Todd Hido (Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery for Contemporary Photography, Cologne)

Untitled 1968, 1997: photo by Todd Hido (Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery for Contemporary Photography, Cologne)

Untitled 1922-c, 1997: photo by Todd Hido (Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery for Contemporary Photography, Cologne)

Half million dollar house under foreclosure, Salinas, California
: photo by Brendel, 13 February 2008


manik sharma said...

The eeriness of this poem is palpable at tip of my fingers as i type...maybe the night stalker runs between my fingers at night thinking it's home because sleep is not a resident of this neighbourhood...there are spaces lit but only for those walk all night long...but then again i would be circling myself then...possessed ...

TC said...


Our thoughts run in the same direction, perhaps...

The nights are long and the gods far away.

ACravan said...

This is so powerful as to be almost unbearable. Daily on the business television networks they feel the need to remind you in one verbal formula or another that the stories they tell are about real people, not numbers, but the words and the drone just reinforce the abstraction which, oddly enough, art (which is all about abstraction), tears away. The Burchfield is amazing (I wonder whether I'll ever make it to Wichita?) and Todd Hido's work is hugely impressive. You've written (and I've read) a poem featuring a night-stalker just when I was planning to head upstairs for another hour of attempted sleep. I believe I'll head to the kitchen for coffee and cleaning instead. Curtis

TC said...


I think we are both night-stalkers (of an innocuous sort, of course). Thank heavens for coffee, that edgy shield of depressed times, always making things both worse and better, sometimes in the same moment.

The decision to pair the Burchfield vision with Todd Hido's was in part instinctive visual metaphor-making, in part based on some similarities of background. Hido is a young artist and I don't know if young artists look much to Burchfield any more. But they ought to, in times like these, and maybe they do. At any rate both Burchfield and Hido come from what I suppose is politely termed "modest backgrounds," and both grew up in northeastern Ohio -- Burchfield born in Ashtabula, raised in Salem, Ohio; Todd Hido was raised in Kent, Ohio, and fled to this area in the 1990s, to go to art school in Oakland. I spent a "lost" year of college in northeast Ohio, at the end of the 1950s, and from what I saw of that area then, it's hard for me to imagine that the region can have ever been anything but... is "bleak" too unfair a term?

Hido has a book called "House Hunting", and it's the missing "a" before the "u" in "Hunting" that tells it all.

Here's something he has said about his m.o.:

"I drive, I drive a lot. People ask me how I find my pictures. I tell them I drive around. I drive and drive and I mostly don’t find anything that is interesting to me. But then, something calls out. Something that looks sort of off or maybe an empty space. Sometimes it’s a sad scene. I like that kind of stuff. So I take the photos and some are good. And so I keep driving and looking and taking pictures."

The segue for me, here, develops out of a recent dwelling upon the "existential situation" (!!) of the photographer-as-such.

The direct link was shaped by the William Henry Jackson work in the Far East. That woman running in terror from the camera in Bombay, 1895 (which I posted last week) reminded me once again of the inevitable aspect of voyeurism in photography of humans and their "haunts".

Now that every Jill and Joe can grab that little black slab of plastic from pocket or purse and snap a picture of anybody and anything, anywhere, any time, I think we tend to forget that the intrusive "stalker" feature is built into the photographic occasion.

None of those long 30-minute exposure times that once may have at least partially protected the innocent victims, though, any more...