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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87 Comments

Peter Kremzar's picture

So what is natural? Can we define it?
If you ask me not even if you shoot on film it is not natural. You have (had) a large selection of films and every type of film reproduced the reality on its own way. So we can’t say that the old fashioned photography is natural. For my taste the old fashioned photography is boring because I’m always searching for perfection and I can’t find it at most of old fashioned photographs.

Kevin Fulton's picture

Very good points. The fact that you can't fine perfection in those old photos is exactly what he (and many others) probably liked about it.

Well obviously Peter... you never looked at Ansel Adams photography.. Cause I highly doubt you could recreate the perfection in the images that man created in the 1920s with an 8 x 10 film camera....

Tobias Solem's picture

Why are you focusing on the blemishes or their absence? What is the purpose of makeup? Is it "unnatural" to use it? If it is, who decides what is and what isn't "natural". If "natural" only is what nature gave us, then nothing really is natural (a camera or a camera exposure certainly isn't). If "natural" is how a person looks without makeup or retouching, then I ask "In what light?" - because different light placements and modifiers can do a lot of things to change the appearance of someone and positioning the camera and light has always been a way for photographers to "enhance" the imagery (natural or not). It is a subjective art form sometimes argued amongst practitioners as some sort of measurable "nature science". 

Kevin Fulton's picture

Blemishes and such are just examples. Using make up, lighting, different films, etc (at least to my eye) just looks "more natural" because to my eye (and to many others) it is just easier to look at and draws me (and others) in. It's why many film makers still use as many "practical" effects as possible rather then just relying on CGI. It just looks more "natural" to many people.

Tobias Solem's picture

It really depends on the situation. There are situations where "overprocessing" can be a nice look (Dave Hill is a master of this). If you're going for a documentary feel to something, then most definitely adding or removing anything from the image detracts from the documentary impression. In a beauty shot however, as long as the editing done isn't obvious (as long as you can suspend disbelief) I think it can be a good thing. If he or she has a big red spot/zit in the skin, regardless of how "natural" that is, it detracts from the general impression of the image. Just like those Brazilian toothpaste commercials cleverly showed how something stuck in the teeth completely makes you ignore obvious stuff and misrepresents the image. 

Double post

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It's funny how people interpret interview. He said: "It's useful think photoshop, but I think it made a lot of magazines look similar, rather boring". There is no critique about photoshop and retouching itself rather the way it is used to create similar, "stale" images.
In other part of interview he is talking about being aware of technical problems to be able to sort it out. Which is as much true in film as in digital.
BTW interview is poorly edited and hard to watch.

Kevin Fulton's picture

Exactly!

Tobias Solem's picture

The thing is, though, photoshop never made those images. It was just the tool. Like a paintbrush, camera, or screwdriver. Blaming the tool for the result is like... well, you know where this argument leads.

 You don't understand what you watch and you don't understand what you read...

Tobias Solem's picture

Apparently you don't. "It made a lot of magazines look similar", what do you think he's referring to? Photoshop of course. He's blaming the tool. 

 The practice of quoting out of context, sometimes referred to as "contextomy" or "quote mining", is a logical fallacy and a type of false attribution in which a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.[1]

Arguments based on this fallacy typically take two forms. As a straw man
argument, which is frequently found in politics, it involves quoting an
opponent out of context in order to misrepresent their position
(typically to make it seem more simplistic or extreme) in order to make
it easier to refute. As an appeal to authority,
it involves quoting an authority on the subject out of context, in
order to misrepresent that authority as supporting some position.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_quoting_out_of_context

Tobias Solem's picture

I am not distorting anything. He goes through this argument that in the absence of chemical photography there is only "drawing". "It has to be digital for photoshop", the quote in the context "It's a useful thing photoshop, but IT has made a lot of magazines look similar". Regardless if presented within the context it is still a critique against the tool, regardless of how many wikipedia-articles you may or may not pull out.

Kevin Fulton's picture

 Ok, so if somebody says "HDR created a lot of terrible over processed landscape photos. HDR is a useful tool, but it has made a lot of pictures look terrible" you'd take that as a critique of HDR? I don't. I understand how people might take it that way, but (to Roman's point) you are distorting his quotes (probably unintentionally) to reflect an opinion that, let's face it, you already had after reading the headline of the article. I'm also pretty confident that he never said "photoshop is boring" he said the photos were boring, but I'll watch it again to make sure.

Tobias Solem's picture

IF someone had said: "HDR is a useful tool, but it has made a lot of pictures look similar", then yes I would say it's a critique against HDR. There are nuances in what is being said that make a big difference. I still think your quote is a criticism against HDR because it explicitly does not fault the misuse by the photographers in question, just like a brush does not carry the weight of someone painting a swastika. I certainly have an opinion, you certainly have an opinion. That is the entire purpose of having a commentary section, for people to express their opinions. The fact that mine differs from yours doesn't make it so my interpretation is "distorted" any more than it makes yours such. 

Kevin Fulton's picture

Of course we have opinions. The point is that your distorting HIS opinion. I'd continue, but now that we have Nazi references I'm checking out. Learn to listen my friend.

Tobias Solem's picture

I'm not sure why you keep calling me friend. Seems a bit passive-aggressive when you keep having great difficulty at my interpretation of the original clip. I think it is YOU that is distorting his opinion, well-intentioned or not, he's obviously not a fan of Photoshop and digital photography, he thinks it is "drawing". "Learn to listen", certainly some good advice, but not from you.

Alain's picture

Exactly, exactly.

Digital photography is the visual equivalent of a telephone conversation. It's only interesting to the people directly involved UNLESS there is some kind of novel element of sensation. But novelty isn't art, and sensation is usually boring to people that are capable of recognizing art.

I agree with him. There are hundreds/thousands of photographers churning out stale imagery for stale fashion magazines. There's no sole in the photographs, just like retouchers have no sole.

Just look at all the "amazing" conceptual crap Fstoppers post. Minimal imagination combined with photoshop skills and you're a great "photographer". 

Because your criticism shows so much imagination. Why don't you show Fstoppers some examples of what they should be displaying then?

 photographs and retouchers have no 'sole'? how do they walk around? barefoot?

exactly. they float on clouds of their own ego. 

Agamemnon's picture

Photoshop is boring si David Hockney e un bou.

Sandy Phimester's picture

 The truth is, the images that stand the real test of time and remain timeless (And will continue to do so) are *almost* always going to be ones that involve LESS editing and additions through digital enhancements (like Photoshop), not more.

It's not just hardcore over editing of skin and fake looking eyes and overdone blurs and conceptual imagery, it's everything photography related. It doesn't mean you have to shoot film, or ignore digital trends or technology, but I definitely believe the more you edit things, the less it is photography, and the more it is something else. For better or worse.

Kevin Fulton's picture

Amen!

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