The great thing about Theo Acworth’s series Hiding is how such a silly, simple idea becomes something altogether more interesting. The project lives up to its title –it features images where Theo timed his camera’s shutter, and gave himself only a few seconds to escape the photographic eye.
The project is part of a book full of playful experiments called Riding Bikes into Hedges and Other Adventures, in which the artist also makes self-portraits in strangers’ gardens, and, as you might have guessed, rides his bike into hedges.
His photographs show an everyday side of his native England. The balanced compositions, shot in earthy tones, give the pictures a static look, were it not for Theo running, hiding, and bringing action and energy into play.
On some images he’s caught in the act, when fails to get into position in time, but in others it takes some time to locate him, like in the image with the white stairs, where a lower leg and worn-out sneakers peep out of the shrubbery. At those moments he’s suddenly playing hide and seek with his audience.
Above all else the project is fun, and was a nice release from the conceptual complexities of his photography studies. “At school we were into very dense theoretical language about photography,” Theo explains, “and this project started as a little escape from that. It was simple and contained.
“I could picture how the photographs would look, thought it was really fun, and also kind of dumb,” he laughs.
The goal wasn’t really to hide – sometimes Theo staged where he’d stand in advance – but more to see what happened. “The first attempts I would go and then panic a bit, the way that kids do when they play hide and seek. You sort of go half into somewhere and then decide you’re going to go somewhere else. Let’s say that some of attempts where successful and others were not.”
The element of play is important in the artist’s work – it’s a reflection of who he is. “I’m not the most serious of people. If I see a sign that says ‘Don’t touch,’ I just want to touch it straight away. I think a lot of people take things too seriously.” He suggests this project is maybe even a reaction against Britishness, and the stereotypes of his reserved and formal compatriots.
And with Theo’s smart eye for composition, and the modest, unsaturated colors, he creates a coherent story of mundane suburban life.
“There’s bits of green, there’s bits of brown, there’s bits of concrete. It’s all kind of sort of English to me. I wanted to photograph it, but in my own way. I wanted to do my own thing within this quiet, unassuming bit of England.”