Club News

Book Report: Hockney

An art museum isn’t just a place to see pretty pictures. It’s a place to learn. So, to my surprise, I discovered David Hockney (artist-painter-photographer) in the de Young Museum bookstore (San Francisco). Had never seen his art. But more importantly had never read one of the many books by him or about him ( How is that possible? Well, I’m not an art critic, just a guy off the street.

A new book Hockney’s Eye, the Art and Technology of Depiction (2022) edited by Gayford, Kemp, and Munro (with each chapter written by a different author) argues that according to Hockney, the artists of the past used camera devices to help paint their works of art (two-dimensional art). I remember I read something a few years back that a Flemish artist (Vermeer) had used the camera obscura to paint a classic painting. It was something of a revelation and somewhat controversial.

Hockney argues that, in fact, all artists have used cameras aids to paint, and that camera aids were and are a common artist’s tool.

Camera  Hockney’s definition of a camera is a device that captures an image, such as the camera obscura (millenniums old), the camera lucida, the graphic telescope, and the iPhone. A camera in the modern sense is a device that not only captures an image but also records it.

For instance, what does the camera obscura do? It projects a real live image onto a surface (i.e., an artist’s canvas). The projected image can be any size. The artist then sketches over the image to get a realistic foundation for a painting. Until impressionism, realism (naturalism) in painting was a common artistic goal.

Interestingly, to Hockney the photograph is the most unrealistic depiction of all. It merely duplicates reality but doesn’t interpret it. It is left to the artist (painter) to interpret a scene, object, or person. No artist’s aid can create such an interpretation. Indeed, Hockney uses an iPhone as a sketch pad—the beginning of an artwork. Thus, an iPhone photograph can be the beginning of an artwork, but not the end, an interesting dogma about photography.

Nonetheless, Hockney is not limited in vision to photography as an artist’s aid. He has done some interesting artwork depicting actual photographs and has also done much experimenting in assembling multiple photographs into one complex image (a collage). His collages were exhibited in galleries around the world in 1983 and again in the first decade. He even received a letter from Henri Cartier-Bresson telling him how wonderful his photographic works are.

A street scene collage

A more comprehensible street scene collage

According to Hockney, it takes more than one photograph (more than one visual point of view) to make an interpretation. In fact, I think that one of my multi-shot panoramas is more in tune with my vision of the scene (see below) than a single shot. I consciously rejected a single shot because it just didn’t do justice to the pleasing slopes of the hill.

My 7 photographs stitched together in Photoshop

This shot was never intended to be a great photograph. This was an experiment. It was simply a photo opt that had a problem. I couldn’t capture my vision with one normal wide angle shot. The panorama (7 points of view) was the answer.

Stitched College  If Photoshop didn’t stitch together my 7 shots seamlessly, my 7-shot panorama would look similar to Hockney’s collages.

Thus, it makes sense when Hockney says that it takes more than one photograph to create a work of art.

Is that true, however? Are multiple visual points of view necessary to be considered an interpretation and thus a work of art?

What does Hockney have to teach photographers? First, his study of the use of technology to create art is a valuable guide in creating any two-dimensional art. Second, great works of art are not great because they duplicate reality. Great art always comes with an interpretation. Third, photography is not limited to single-shot photographs. In fact, a single-shot photograph can be very limiting.

Hockney is a guy who sees the iPhone camera (or any camera) primarily as an aid to painters (artists). Nonetheless, it seems to me that an iPhone isn’t just an aid to artists. Can’t you take a photograph in a way that interprets reality and thus creates art? I think so (which puts me at odds with Hockney).

Hockney (now in his 80s) is a British artist well associated with several leading British art museums, the author of many books, the creator of the stained-glass window in Westminster Abby that commemorates Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and an art experimenter reminiscent of Picasso.

Whether you like his art or not, some of his books are directly relevant to photography. And he even does some engaging artwork depicting actual photographs or creating photographic collages as illustrated above. Interestingly, some of Hockney’s paintings have odd shapes (i.e., not rectangles or squares) based on his unusual points of view.

Available Now  Odd-shaped art makes MagnaChrome’s capability to cut metal prints into any shape a compelling facility, assuming you have an eye to the future and a lust for new ideas. That is, the Hockney shapes immediately above are natural candidates for cutout metal prints.

But that’s not all. Hockney did his photographic experimenting long before metal prints. It seems to me his photograph collages would be much more appealing if they were cut out. For instance, his street-view collage first above (about 75 different photographs) is on a drab gray background that does nothing to add to its aesthetic value and even detracts from its appeal. If it was a cutout metal print, however, it would have more appeal, albeit with a strange shape.

To elaborate on my opinion, photography by itself can be an art (contrary to Hockney). Photographers don’t necessarily create art simply by shooting reality. And photographs don’t have to have multiple visual points of view to be valid art. Photographers have always had lots of photographic techniques to render an interpretation. And photographers now have extra-analog techniques for interpretation, such as Photoshop (i.e., digital technology). In answer to my argument, Hockney will argue that painting gives an artist much more flexibility in creating art with or without the aid of a camera. Maybe so. But that doesn’t necessarily indicate that a photograph cannot be art.

Wow!  One of Hockney’s paintings sold at a Christie auction in 2022 for $90 million. It was owned by one of his patrons.

$90 million for a nice painting of an LA swimming pool

Currently Hockney is on exhibit in London ( with a display of his art projected on the walls. The difference between this dynamic artistic display, and other similar ones that have proceeded it, is that a living artist (Hockney) has had a hand in producing it.

Hockney has exceptional ideas about two-dimensional art, many of which are relevant to photographers. But beyond dimensions, the chapter on color is remarkable. Hockney is cognizant of the physics, physiology, and psychology of color and the role it plays in paintings. Indeed, the levels of actual colors that appear in nature are much greater than that of the color pigments (for painting). But the levels of digital color are much greater than that of pigment color.

Consequently, Hockney has taken to an iPad to paint his art. That is, Hockney now paints with an iPad as well as with a brush. This relates directly to photography wherein one can change colors subtlety or dramatically by manipulating them digitally (e.g., in Photoshop). But first one must study color in order to understand its effect on viewers. The chapter on color is a good start.

This book was published by the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge University with which Hockney has a professional association. Unfortunately, the book is technical and is more fitting for college art school than for casual reading. Yet a photographer can still profit by absorbing some of it, if not all.

Please keep in mind that my review of this Hockney book may be very misleading. After all, I’m not an art critic, just a guy off the street. So, read the book yourself.

What’s the bottom line for photographers? Experiment! Experiment with Hockney’s ideas. We don’t have to do a 70-shot college. We can do a 7-shot college. We don’t have to do a panorama of a landscape. We can do a panorama of a car (at a car show). Or whatever. Experiment.

Unfortunately, experimentation is a lot of work and expense. To do my simple panorama (above) required a tripod, a special head for the tripod, and an hour’s work of getting set up and shooting; not to mention the postprocessing I did in Photoshop. And that wasn’t even an attempt to create art.

To be clear, creating worthwhile art has never been easy. And we need all the ideas we can get in order to experiment and become more creative.

Red Wash Outing

Members of the Photography Club gathered to hike and photograph a picturesque canyon near Abiquiu, New Mexico in late April. Most of us have driven this stretch of Highway 84, between Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu many times. Who would guess that there are dramatic slot canyons hidden in the red rock? Thanks to John Farley for informing us about the area! Below are a few photos from some of the participants, including John Farley, Chris Roebuck, Liz Jamison, Dave Anderson, Andy Butler, David Lenderman and Susanne Russell. Click on an image to enlarge it, and see the photographer and title. Use the arrows on the enlarged images to move between photos.

Photographing Brazil

Hyacinth Macaw
Haycinth Macaw, Parnaiba Headwaters NP, Brazil, © Doug Coombs

The May meeting of the Pagosa Springs Photography Club will be held on Wednesday, May 10, 6:00 p.m., at the Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis Street in Pagosa Springs. Our topic this month is Photographing Brazil, presented by Pagosa Springs photographer Doug Coombs

In the summer of 2022 Doug Coombs, his wife Miyuki, and friends from the Los Alamos, New Mexico Photography Club took a 30+ day trip to Brazil to photograph birds, mammals, waterways, indigenous people, and some cityscapes. They visited five different venues including Cristalino Reserve in the southern section of the Brazilian Amazon, Emas National Park, Parnaiba Headwaters National Park, Rio de Janeiro and the Atlantic Rainforest nearby, and a seven night cruise on the Rio Negro and some of its tributaries, which are all tributaries of the Amazon. Doug will share and discuss photos from these sites in his presentation.

Three-toed Sloth
Three-toed Sloth, Atlantic Rainforest, Brazil. © Doug Coombs

Doug Coombs is a Pagosa Springs based photographer specializing in landscapes, birds, and other wildlife. He is also a member of the Pagosa Springs Photography Club. To see more of his images, visit Doug’s website at .

Our meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with socializing, and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m. This will be a hybrid meeting, also available on Zoom. The Zoom link will be emailed to members; others who wish to attend may request the link by email to Photography Club meetings are open to the public.

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club promotes educational, social and fun interactions between all who enjoy making and viewing great photography. The club sponsors educational programs and photography outings to help members hone their skills.   We welcome photographers of all skill levels. Dues for 2023 are just $25 ($35 family). For more information about the club, and to download a membership application, visit our website at .


Now that MagnaChrome offers cutting metal prints at a reasonable cost (for the intensive work it requires), It’s time to leave behind the idea that a photograph print must be displayed by a rectangle or square. In the new reality, where the LED wall screen will be the new frame of choice for photographs, one-off photograph prints will have to be something special. That is, a photograph will have to offer something more than a rectangle or square frame to reach a decorative value that surpasses an LED wall screen. Keep in mind that wooden rectangle or square frames are not enough for one-offs, because such treatment can also be given to a LED (i.e., a wooden frame around it). You need something innovative.

Cutting your metal prints into shapes that don’t conform with the traditional rectangle-square is one solution to the problem. That might work for many photographs, but not all. Many photographs will require additional treatment, such as innovative new frames or materials that do not conform to the shape of rectangles or squares.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss what innovative new frames and materials might go well with metal prints. Nonetheless, it’s appropriate to briefly discuss why rectangle-square frames have enjoyed such a long tradition.

First, a traditional frame is easy and inexpensive over which to stretch canvas thus traditionally catering to painters. Second, a wooden frame is easier and less expensive to make than a frame that does not conform to such a format. Third, everybody else is doing it.

That everybody else is doing it will not count for much in the great age of innovation. There is a call for artists to think outside the frame. Much of the history of art in the last 150 years has been the disintegration of prior art forms that artists have used for centuries. Now, we have a new vehicle, which lends itself to making odd shapes and to integrating with other materials such as wood, metal, or glass. And that innovation is metal prints. They are much more versatile than anything that has come before, and they look great too. So, let’s get back to easy and inexpensive cutting. There are five types of cutting, which make sense. The first is cutting away portions of a mental print (a photograph) that one doesn’t want in the picture. This leaves you out of control of the final product, as the resulting shape will be random. But will it be usual to see in a gallery or museum a lot of random-shaped metal prints someday? Perhaps.


Black parts cut out (random shape)

The second type of cutting is a purposeful cut. One that purposely cuts away part of a metal print to achieve a particular shape that coordinates with the photograph. This can is much more orderly and less random. The purpose is to achieve a photograph that makes sense together with its purposeful shape.

Purposeful cutout

Third, one type of cutting is the silhouette. You simply cut away all of a photograph except for the subject. For instance, for a bird, one might cut away the entire photograph except for the bird itself, leaving a metal print that’s the silhouette of the bird. If any type of cutting can be said to be common already, this is the technique.

A fourth approach, which promises much potential, is to determine the shape of the picture first. Then find photographs or take photographs that fit well inside the non-traditional shape. Although Photoshop (or similar software) enables you to do this easily, the actual creative thinking behind this approach can be very complex, difficult, and likely time-consuming.

But it will be a part of the new photography. Artists will pay particular attention to shapes they can use that have an aesthetic value of their own, or at least provide an aesthetic complement for a photograph.

A predetermined shape

Two predetermined shapes make a nice combination

The fifth application is the collage. You can assemble a number of photographs into one metal print and cut it into any shape.

A collage on one metal print cut into a creative shape

The collage above is just a collection of travel snapshots to demonstrate the cutting possibilities. Not much imagination. But think of the creative possibilities for the use of this technique.

The following is a college by David Hockney. It’s on a gray background. It would look better as a cutout. (More on David Hockney in the next newsletter.)

Hockney’s mother

The metal print, and its potentially nontraditional shape, makes possible a standalone product of the future. That is, you can mount any shape on the wall without a frame. And as discussed above, a metal print lends itself to a wide range of additional treatment well beyond that of traditional framing (although this article is simply about cutting shapes).

Where does this leave the photographer? Well, for standalone prints in innovative shapes, it leaves a photographer by himself or herself alone. That’s not the whole story, however. A photographer who combines a metal print with other treatment may involve a second person (a second artist). This is already a common practice, in effect. With the frame being a crucial part of a work of art itself, many photographers and patrons leave the framing to a frame shop to provide an attractive frame. Thus, the second person today is the owner of or a worker at a frame shop who has the artistic sense to make a good match between a photograph print and the frame.

In the future, one can imagine the photographer will need a different second person to provide nontraditional framing. That second person will be another artist. That is not to say that one person (the photographer) can’t cover the creation of innovative framing too. In reality, however, the new framers will be specialty artists who think outside the traditional frame.

Cut with tabs and the tabs screwed to wood

There is nothing in regard to cutting and framing that detracts from the photographer’s art. These are additional tools to showcase the vision of the photographer in any photograph. Photographers, who decide to conform to the traditional frame, will best process photographs to be displayed on an LED screen. For photographers who desire to create one-off works of art, the new metal printing, shaping, and nontraditional framing will prove a very productive escape from taking photographs to be shown only in squares and rectangles.

As with any revolution in art, current and past generations of artists will continue to pursue the old traditions. But new generations, and those current artists who look to the future, will experiment with new shapes and nontraditional framing more and more. Come back in 25 years, and a photography art gallery will not look the same as it does today.

Note: PSPC members use the code PSPC15 to get a 15% discount at MagnaChrome.

Pandas & Conservation Photography, April 12

Giant Panda on 2 Tree Trunks, © Katherine Feng

The April meeting of the Pagosa Springs Photography Club will be held on Wednesday, April 12, 6:30 p.m., at the Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis Street in Pagosa Springs. Our speaker this month is Katherine Feng. Katherine’s presentation will be on Using Conservation Photography to Help Save Endangered Species

Katherine Feng is a retired veterinarian who devotes her photography to protecting China’s endangered species and their habitat.  Katherine is a Senior Fellow of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photography.  

Katherine spent 6-9 months a year for 4-1/2 years in China’s Wolong Nature Reserve documenting the work of staff and researchers to save the giant pandas from extinction.  Her images have been published internationally in calendars, books, National Geographic, Paris Match and numerous conservation magazines. Her giant panda images are featured in the children’s book, Panda Kindergarten.

Waving Panda, © Katherine Feng

Katherine will present a program on how she approaches conservation photography to educate the public about wildlife, their habitat and people’s efforts to protect them.  She works closely with the different nature reserves in China where she donates her images for conservation purposes.

Katherine’s presentation will feature photos of China’s giant and lesser pandas as well as the lesser-known snub-nosed monkeys and the critically endangered black-crested gibbons and white-headed langurs. The presentation will also be available by Zoom; for Zoom information contact Andy Butler at

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club sponsors educational programs and outings to help photographers develop their skills. Photography Club members learn from one another and build their networks. The Club welcomes photographers of all skill levels. Dues for 2023 are just $25 ($35 family). For more information about the club, and to download a membership application, visit our website at .

A Photo Display System

It seems to me that the day of the framed photograph may about to be superseded by digital technology. Think about a digital (LED or other similar technology) display thinner than a typical photograph + frame. Such displays already exist.

Why not put an LED screen on the wall as an object of art; that is, why not display photographs on an LED as a household or office decoration?

What are the advantages over a traditional framed photograph?

  • Lit-up brilliance A photograph on an LED can take advantage of the lit-up capability and add a new dimension to both traditional, modern, and future photography. An LED can also display muted colors; it doesn’t have to be brilliant.
  • Multiple photos  Such a display system is not limited to one photograph. Photographs can be changed as often as desired.
  • Power The power for such a system can be provided by batteries or by normal electricity build into the wall.
  • Computer controlled Such a system can be computer controlled (e.g, desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone).
  • Low cost The cost of such a system can be low today and will get lower in the future.

These are some characteristics to play with in designing a digital display system. Below is one example of how such a system might work.

This is my idea of a living room art system:

  • Six LEDs of varying sizes on the walls.
  • Controlled by a computer (e.g., a smartphone app).

This system, although seemingly ambitious, can be assembled to cost less than a serious stereo sound system. What can you do with such a system?

  • Change the photographs displayed occasionally to avoid boredom.
  • Create themes for the photographs displayed and use different themes for different occasions or for different looks (e.g., parties, Christmas, baroque, impressionist, etc).

The photographs for the 6-LED system will have to be ultra-high resolution (8K – 8192 x 4320) in order to display effectively on large LEDs and be usable in the future. Vendors will sell packages of photographs that meet the ultra-high-resolution requirements. Fine art photographers will take care to shoot photographs that meet the ultra-high-resolution requirements.

Sensors An HD (1920 x 1080) photograph requires a 2MP sensor. Virtually all digital cameras have more powerful sensors today. But an 8K photograph requires a 35MP sensor. Most of today’s digital cameras do not meet such a requirement. But an 8K photograph is only necessary for very large displays. So, a 5K photograph requiring only a 14MP sensor is a good interim standard to aim for. Keep in mind that most software will automatically enlarge an image that’s too small for the requisite display. But enlargement means a potential loss of quality. Thus, a higher resolution photograph is desirable.
Photographs can’t be fuzzy in large displays

The software for a LED system will enable a user to set the amount of lit-upness and other visual qualities for each photograph. So, it will be difficult to tell looking at an LED inside a wooden frame whether the display is an actual photograph print or a digital display.

Beyond photographs by photographers, there’s another dimension: photographs of art. People buy posters and coffee-table books in art museum shops published with photographs of the art in the museums. Why not digital display versions?

Keep in mind that the primary missing ingredient of an LED display of art is the texture. But you will be able to elect to add appropriate texture simulation via the software.

Of course, not all art lends itself to being displayed well on an LED screen. But a lot of art does. And some art looks better in photographs than the original work of art itself. My 6-LED system can turn a living room into an art museum.

17th April 2020, No. 2 iPad Drawing © David Hockney

By the way, my research shows that such a system is readily available today, primarily for commercial use (i.e., video wall systems for offices and business buildings) and very expensive. One application you will recognize is signage. For instance, in fast food places today, the menus are on LEDs. Although such systems are expensive today, prices will come down dramatically as systems become popular for home use. Digital components are not terribly expensive, and the software is simple.

But what about those of us who are still listening to AM radio, never had a big-time stereo system, and can’t afford such a 6-LED system? Well, LED screens of various sizes are inexpensive today and will be cheaper in the future. They are cheaper than many art frames today and will perhaps be as cheap as inexpensive frames in the future.

The system I have outlined doesn’t have to have six LED screens. It can have just one. The system uses LEDs as dumb terminals (receptive-only devices): in essence computer monitors. The screens are hooked up to power from the building; they have only enough storage for one photograph; they don’t have software; and they don’t have a CPU (computer). The image storage, software, and CPU are provided by a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. In other words, the computer-driven LED is likely to be the photograph frame of the future.

Of course, portable digital display devices have been available for a long time. They are self-contained with power (batteries), storage, CPUs, software, and LEDs all built in. They are designed to be setup on a flat horizonal surface, such as a table or desk; and they are intended primarily for friends and family snapshots.

So, the idea of using LEDs to display photographs is not a new one. And my 6-LED-room-display system in this article is just one idea of hundreds that might be devised using digital display technology; technology that exists today; technology that is about to revolutionize the future of photographs on display.

Will frame shops become extinct? Probably not. Frame shops may provide attractive frames for LEDs, perhaps frames that can be easily changed to match different photographic themes. Frame shops may also become the place to buy an LED-home-display system.

What about photographers? How will you sell your photographs? As NFTs? As 8K JPGs? In a copy-protection sales system such as Kindle or iTunes? In theme packages of multiple photographs? Something to think about.

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