David Hockney’s mother

I’ve just finished Lawrence Weschler’s luminous collection of essays and articles,Vermeer in Bosnia, and was particularly taken by his long piece on the British painter David Hockney’s early-80s forays into photography, in part as a discovery-through-process of what the cubists were trying to achieve. He tells Weschler, “My main argument was that a photograph could not be looked at for a long time. Have you noticed that? You can’t look at most photos for more than, say, thirty seconds. … All you can do with most ordinary photographs is stare at them—they stare back, blankly—and presently your concentration begins to fade. They stare you down. I mean, photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclops—for a split second. But that’s not what it’s like to live in the world, or to convey the experience of living in the world. During the last few years, I’ve come to realize that it has something to do with the amount of time that’s been put into the image. I mean, Rembrandt spent days, weeks painting a portrait. You can go to a museum and look at a Rembrandt for hours and you’re not going to spend as much time looking as he spent painting—observing, layering his observations, layering the time.” And indeed, Hockney’s photocollages capture a greater span of time than a single exposure could. They’re messy, but also much more alive.


Originally published at culture-making.com.

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