Early Polaroid Work

When Hockney first started using photography for his art, he began by arranging instant Polaroid images into neat, grid pieces. These were often detailed studies of their subjects, attempting to capture intimate details. The format was very strict, with no cropping or overlapping, always forming a rectangle and a grid design which later Hockney felt excluded the viewer. Hockney was also strict with his approach, taking each image, waiting for it to develop before moving on to take the next. This was time consuming but allowed him to create images exactly as he wanted, even if his objectives sometimes changed as he produced it.

‘Still Life Blue Guitar’ 1982, Composite Polaroid, 24 1/2 x 30 in.
This image symbolises clearly Hockney’s view of photographing the whole scene, from different perspectives. He has photographed around the guitar itself, and this subject has been taken at different distances and from different angles.

‘Don + Christopher’, Composite Polaroid, Los Angeles, 6th March 1982
This portrait looks at the ideas of the old and young. Here is an example of an image where Hockney has changed it during the shoot. Taken at different distances, the older man appears to have a smaller head. This is to symbolise his diminishing size both physically as he ages and also his power. His son looks down on him, from a higher, dominant position, his head taken closer to appear large. Hockney also tried to capture him looking protectively down. The individual images here allow Hockney to create parts at a different scale, but also give a cubist, multi-dimensionality.

‘Mother’, Composite Polaroid, Bradford Yorkshire 4th May 1982
This photomontage by Hockney resembles a royal portrait. Her position in the image, her pose and the angle of the photographs make her appear as a powerful and important figure. A clever and discrete addition to this image is the family photo in a frame to the top left of her head, positioned almost like a thought bubble. The similarly of her dress and the carpet also adds an extra dimension to an already planned, intentional and successful image.