Hockney Exhibition at Tate Britain – Photomontages

I have been intrigued in the past by comments made by David Hockney about photography. He has talked about landscape photos only being able to view the scene from a single point perspective whereas people generally walk through the landscape and see from multiple perspectives. He has also talked about the camera seeing scenes geometrically whereas people experience them psychologically. So I wanted to see the Hockney Exhibition at Tate Britain to see how he had approached these aspects. Hockney’s views on the limitations of photography are well summarised in the exhibition pamphlet which states that for him “the single-point perspective of photography could not communicate the experience of looking and living in the world. He described conventional photography as akin to ‘looking at the world from the point of view of a paralysed Cyclops – for a split second’. In contrast, he sought to create a photography that could accommodate different viewpoints as well as time and movement “.

Perhaps the best example in the exhibition of his attempt to overcome these limitations is Pearblossom Highway. This is a very large collage composed of a very large number of individual prints of different aspects of the scene. Some, especially of the sky, overlap the prints below which gives a depth to the scene. The individual photos comprising the collage were taken from different angles and under different lighting conditions. This all contributes to an image which resembles a photo taken from a single point, but which has more interest, inviting the viewer to examine all of the different aspects that make up the scene.

I found Pear Blossom Highway a fascinating image, although I did not think that it answered all the points that Hockney had made about the limitations of photography. I felt that it had, perhaps, made a start to addressing them, but that if they were really serious limitations then there was still a long way to go.

There is an interesting interview with Hockney talking about how and why he made Pear Blossom Highway on the Khan Academy website.