Where a pencil or a brush can caress the figure of a loved one, a camera can only snap at it. Indeed the language used by photographers of their art is often one of subjugation.

"People are very naive about photography," said David Hockney last Tuesday, at the press conference to launch an exhibition of his drawings at the Royal Academy. He was responding, in thinly veiled fashion, to the news that a newsreader had been interviewed in connection with nude pictures taken of her seven-year-old daughter. Hockney's indignation was understandable but the implications of what he went on to say were a little puzzling. Pointing out that he encountered few "warm depictions of a human being" these days, he noted that "the person who was trying to make warm depictions of a human being was arrested by the police". He then announced that he had in his pocket a picture of a little girl in "a highly provocative pose". He was referring to a postcard of a Fragonard painting, in which a young girl is shown naked, legs drawn up to her chest and a small lap dog dangling between her knees, its tail brushing against her genitals.

There was one very odd thing about all this, something that seemed to be overlooked in the fuss over the fact that Hockney had intervened in the matter at all. The oddity is this - that an artist of Hockney's stature should, even by implication, suggest that there was no distinction between photography and drawing. "The desire to make depictions of a human being is a common thing, part of a great tradition in art," he said, as if there was some unbroken continuity between Rembrandt and domestic snapshots. He even called on the Royal Academy to make a stand on the issue, as if taking pictures of children in the bath was now part of that venerable body's sphere of influence.

It is odder still because Hockney himself knows that there are sharp qualitative distinctions between the two media. He had virtually said as much the day before, when he was interviewed on Start the Week. "You have to deal with drawing," he said, "because everything else will be a photographed image, and photographed images get a bit boring after a while." He might have said much more. Imagine, for a moment, that the postcard he'd drawn from his pocket had not been a painting by Fragonard, but a photograph, taken in a bed-sit by an off-duty supermarket manager using an underage model. The subject matter might be identical but its implications would be very different. And it isn't just that in the case of the Fragonard " 'Twas another country and besides, the wench is dead". Fragonard may have used a model, but to be painted and to be photographed are quite different experiences. A painter makes a picture, a photographer "takes" it.

The point is made in Hockney's own exhibition, which includes several portraits of naked young men, genitals exposed. But there is a large difference between Hockney's drawings of his friends and the sun-splashed beefcake that first lured him to California, even if the subject matter is similar. These are tender and intimate images and their tenderness is inseparable from the manner of their making. Were these cheap photographs, the gaze of the subject would stare back, not at the artist, a known presence in the room, but out at unknown consumers, waiting to ease their appetites. Instead of a form of intercourse between two people you would have only masturbation.

These distinctions create a sharp divide between the two ways of making "depictions". Where a pencil or a brush can caress the figure of a loved one, a camera shutter can only snap at it, even if, as in Hockney's Polaroid collage of his mother, it takes repeated affectionate nips. Indeed the language used by photographers of their art is often one of subjugation - look through the anthology of quotations at the end of Susan Sontag's On Photography and the verbs leap out at you - "seize", "trap", "arrest", "imprison". In all cases, the fugitive is secured, sometimes with violence.

What's more, drawing is less constrictingly tied to reality than photography. Elizabeth Barrett shocked her family by saying that she would rather have a photograph of a loved one than "the noblest artist's work every produced". She understood that what you sacrifice in artistry you might gain in fetishistic power: "the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever!" When Dawn French was the subject of a television profile recently the film included a full-length nude painting of her. She was perfectly happy to have this displayed on national television but would, I suspect, have felt very different about stripping for the cameras. She needed a veil of artistry between her private self and the world.

Some people are naive about photography. But it's surprising to find David Hockney among them.

David Hockney is reviewed on page 4

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...