David Hockney – Joiners – James Allan


This story takes place in the early 1980’s.  David Hockney was a painter who for a few years dabbled in photography.  He was struck by the static nature of photography.

“I had become very, very aware of this frozen moment that was very unreal to me. The photographs didn’t really have life in the way a drawing or painting did, and I realized it couldn’t because of what it is.

“Compared to a Rembrandt looking at himself for hours and hours of scrutinizing his face, and putting all these hours into the picture you’re going to look at, naturally there’s many more hours there than you can give it.

“A photograph is the other way round, it’s a fraction of a second, frozen. So, the moment you’ve looked at it for even four seconds, you’re looking at it far more than the camera did.

“It dawned on me this was visible, actually, it is visible, and the more you become aware of it, the more this is a terrible weakness; drawings and paintings do not have this.”

The creation of the “joiners” occurred accidentally.  While working on a painting of a living room and terrace in Los Angeles, he took Polaroid shots of the living room and glued them together, not intending for them to be a composition on their own. On looking at the final composition, he realised it created a narrative, as if the viewer moved through the room.


He wanted to convey the sense of time and movement and different perspectives in his photography.  He gave up painting altogether for a period to explore this new medium.  Sometimes he created images with a dominant grid created by the white borders of the polaroid images.  At other times the images overlapped in a seamless way.  Occasionaly the constructions would have gaps and holes and individual prints will flow in curved lines like streams through the work.

Although the overlapped images contain different perspectives and movement of the objects, they were constructed in roughly anatomical ways.  David observes that these images did not convey a feeling of multilimbed / multiheaded people like Indian deities.  Rather the viewer is able to reassemble the various aspects into a composite whole, a person moving their arms, averting their gaze and filling space in their own unique way.

Several critics remarked on the similarity of David’s images to the paintings of the cubists who also sought to show different aspects of the subject in the same plane.

David gave up his photographic joiners after a period and moved back to painting.

However the whole concept has been evocative.  There are numerous Hockney inspired joiners that you find on a brief Google image search. It seems that it has often been set as an exercise in photographic or visual design courses.

Well here goes, this is my attempt to emulate David’s style.

Self portraitwith camera ala Davis Hockney-s

I acknowledge the following sources for this article.