David Hockney: Photoshop is Boring

Very few of us have been involved in photography and art long enough to truly appreciate how much change has taken place in when it comes to cameras and photographs. David Hockney, a British artist who has dedicated much of his life to painting and photography, thinks some of the art in imagery has been lost along the way. In short, Photoshop is boring.

David Hockney was already well in to his career when he was invited to attend a conference by Adobe. There he envisioned the end chemical photography as it was to be replaced by the Photoshop.  David makes the point that the transition that has come as a result of Photoshop has brought a certain staleness to the art of visual display. There is a loss of creativity and uniqueness in magazines and fashion images. A good picture has become one where no blemishes are present and the highlights and darks are perfectly set. Images have become too uniform and too perfect and as a result, there's a loss of personal connection and human experience to what we see.

Though the ending of the video veers off his original point, would you agree with David that Photoshop has removed an element of art from the images we see every day?

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the plastic look of much photoshop work has about run its course .. it is mocked now, a sure sign of its demise ... post processing will continue, but with different value systems. 

an old guy .. what do you expect.... digital is boring too...

cinema is boring too..... i bet he loves the laterna magica much more....

Kevin Fulton's picture

 Obviously if you're chalking it up as "oh he's just an old guy" then you didn't really understand his point. What he's saying is that photos have become less photographic and more drawings because of the amount of touch ups that are done to them. So for him they've become very boring because it is no longer a true form of photography, in his opinion. I tend to agree with him and I'm only 32. Seeing natural beauty in fashion magazines has become extremely rare since everybody looks perfect. When everything looks perfect there's less there to draw you into the photo IMO. His point about solving problems is also very important since there are many photographers (young and old) who do not understand how to solve problems during a shoot so that it can be fixed in camera. Instead they just "fix it in post". This is fine, but why not save yourself time and do it in camera? I feel that Photoshop is very useful and definitely has it's place artistically, but it has also resulted in the over use of post production.

Tobias Solem's picture

His argument is as old as he is. People have been complaining about retouching even when we used the dark room. Before that they were whining about auto focus. People who aren't tech-savvy will diss tech out of pure self-interest. Of course there are bad examples of over-usage of Photoshop, I'll find you bad examples of retouching in analogue photography as well. On the other hand, back when I used to work with my father (early  90'ies) in flight photography of people's homes, we had a retoucher remodel things, taking away ugly barns, making them in another color, etc. - the end result was most often as if it was real (this guy was that good). I bet there could be an old guy who used to mix silver nitrate and other chemicals on a Daguerrotype back then who sounded just like this dude. There will always be whiners, always. Why people listen to them, I'll never know. Just love your craft whatever it is and ignore all the haters.

Kevin Fulton's picture

 So if people ask him his OPINION on the use of Photoshop it should be ignored? His opinion is "as old as he is" and that's it? Nobody needs to agree with it, but a taking a little time to listen to him and understand his point would go a long way in helping people take better pictures. Don't get me wrong, PS definitely has it's place (I use it here and there as well), but many photographers could benefit from doing more in camera.

Tobias Solem's picture

Sure. Everyone has an opinion. Some opinions are popular, others are less than such. In reality I don't have nothing against his age (that was just frustration because I've heard it before from old-timer photographers who are/were anti-tech). The problem REALLY is that people like him fail to realize that it isn't about the tool, be it chemicals or photoshop. It is in the application of that tool. 

We also have to realize that different tools are best used in certain situations. I'd never use a fisheye in a portrait situation, and I'd never use a HDR shot for a product shot, etc. - since there are a lot more photographers in 2013 than in 1980- something and we are exposed to more images we are bound to run into people whose use of the tools we either don't like, or are an improper use of them (like wanting to light a serene beauty shot but using small light sources creating tons of contrast and shadow). Still, it isn't the tools' fault. Whining about photoshop is about a tired argument as there are. And this is why it is in the opinion of this photographer that his opinion stinks.

Simon Whitehead's picture

I think saying you'd never use a fisheye for a portrait or HDR for a product is about as old-fashioned and conformist as Hockney's supposed attitude, no?

Tobias Solem's picture

Maybe so, show me an example of a great portrait shot with a fisheye.

Simon Whitehead's picture

Even if I can't does that mean it can't be done? Does it mean we should only use the same tools as everyone else? Or should we challenge that and produce something unique, original and meaningful?

Tobias Solem's picture

In the words of Chuck Palahniuk: "You are not a unique snowflake". But yes, I do see your point. Established rules need to be questioned. I agree.

Platon uses extreme wide angle, which is close enough.

I do kinda have to agree with this guy, Photoshop has made mainstream photography a bit boring, But not all photography, there is alot of stuff out there that isn't in a magazine that look stunning, alot of which wouldn't look as stunning if it weren't for photoshop. I will agree certain styles or certain areas have gotten boring, but Photography as a whole has gotten more exciting in my opinion. as for Tobias I found these three images taken with fish eyes in response to your request from simon All three of which are decent photos. They may not fall under the "Great" category, but it's only a matter of time until somebody creates one that will :) 


Worked for Joe McNally on the high steel (full-frame 15mm fisheye), but maybe you don't consider environmental portraiture to be portraiture. I cringe every time I hear some by-the-numbers n00b talking authoritatively about things like "portrait lenses". Ain't no sech thing, son.

And HDR works great for product shots, particularly if you're after an old-fashioned illustrated feel faster than an illustrator can do it. Instant Rockwell. Or Sundblom.

It's not Photoshop that's killing photography, nor is that really what Hockney's talking about. It's the conformist polishing of an infinite number of nearly-identical turds that's the problem. Photographers who are and feel free to be artists are the solution.

You probably need to read my post again. This was uncalled for. "I don't use" is not the same as "You can't use". Also put my responses to Simon's comments into the context and maybe, just maybe calling me a "n00b" and a turd are a bit over the top.

Kevin Fulton's picture

 It's not a critique about the tools though. It's about peoples use of the tools. His opinion is that too many photos are being touched up to be absolutely perfect and to him perfect is boring. He's not "whining about photoshop". In fact, he says "it's a useful tool". I'd highly recommend re-watching the interview. Believe it or not you and Hockney are in agreement about this issue, but you don't even realize it.