Photography

David Hockney and the Camera: A Composite Polaroid Reality

Magda Michalska 26 June 2022 min Read

Sometime before 1982, David Hockney commented, “Photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclopsfor a split second.” However, his tough opinion changed when in February 1982, a curator visiting his house in the Hollywood Hills forgot some Polaroid film, and Hockney started experimenting with it. What arose from these experiments are the most stunning composite photo collages that you will see in a long time. See David Hockney’s photographs below.

David Hockney, Still Life Blue Guitar 4th April 1982, Composite Polaroid, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt, david hockney photographs
David Hockney, Still Life Blue Guitar 4th April 1982, 1982. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt.

Hockney’s attitude towards photography was clearly modernist. He took photos sequentially and pasted them together, calling them “joiners.”

“If you put six pictures together, you look at them six times. This is more what it’s like to look at someone.”

David Hockney

He admitted that his works are very Cubist and often reference Synthetic Cubism with their distorted perspective.

David Hockney, Jerry Diving Sunday Feb. 28th 1982, Composite Polaroid, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt, david hockney photographs
David Hockney, Jerry Diving Sunday Feb. 28th 1982, 1982. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt.

Fascinated by movement, Hockney often portrayed his subjects as moving or tried to highlight his own movement in the photograph. His photographs invite our gaze to move from side to side, up and down.

David Hockney, Pearlblossom Hwy., 11 - 18th April 1986, #2, April 11-18, 1986, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, david hockney photographs
David Hockney, Pearlblossom Hwy., 11 – 18th April 1986, #2, April 11-18, 1986, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

What started as an exploration of the spaces of his house and the portrayal of his family and friends developed into a monumental work depicting vast American scenery. Yet instead of simply documenting the landscapes, Hockney depicted depth, trying to overcome the limits of eye-vision. He viewed his collages as a combination of painting and photography. He presented multiple perspectives in the same artwork to show how there is never a single true and privileged one that we should blindly follow.

David Hockney, Blue Terrace Los Angeles March 8th 1982, Composite Polaroid, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt, david hockney photographs
David Hockney, Blue Terrace Los Angeles March 8th 1982, 1982. Photo credit: Richard Schmidt.

By using the Cubist shifting vantage points, Futurist glorification of movement, and traditional representational iconography, David Hockney’s photographs depicted reality in a new sharpened way, heightening our perception of the surrounding world.

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