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David Hockney and The Camera: A Composite Polaroid Reality

David Hockney, Place Furstenberg, Paris, August 7, 8, 9, 1985, Copyright © 1985

Photography

David Hockney and The Camera: A Composite Polaroid Reality

Sometime before 1982, Hockney commented that Photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralysed cyclops-for a split second. His tough opinion, however, changed when in February 1982 a curator visiting his house in the Hollywood Hills forgot some Polaroid film and Hockney started to experiment with it, trying to capture the three dimensions of surrounding reality. What arose from these experiments are the most stunning composite photographs/photocollages (you call it) that you will see in a long time.

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, Composite Polaroid, 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, he said. He admitted himself that his works are very Cubist, moreover, they often reference Synthetic Cubism with their distorted perspective and iconography, mixing homage and parody in one.

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, Composite Polaroid, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

Fascinated by movement (it’s our movement that tells we’re alive), Hockney often portrayed his subjects moving (on the contrary to his painting, where his sitters usually sit), or tried to highlight his own movement in the photograph. Then, his photographs invite our gaze to move from side to side, up and down. Another important element is time, Hockney hopes lived time, which according to him is best conveyed by movement through space.

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


What started as an exploration of the spaces of his house, to the portraits of his family and friends, developed into monumental works 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 combination of painting and photography, and by showing multiple perspectives at the same moment, he makes it clear that 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, Composite Polaroid, Photo credit: Richard Schmidt

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

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Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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