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Dennis Stock 1928-2010

January 15, 2010

James Dean by Dennis Stock, 1954

Dennis Stock died Monday in Sarasota, Florida. He was my first photo hero. I didn’t know much about art photography in the early 1960s. As a teenager I mostly knew about movies, James Dean, and music, Miles Davis. I didn’t listen to much pop music before the Beatles. I was a Miles Davis fan. I didn’t even go to the movies that much. My sister, who is 7 years older, loved James Dean so I figured he was “cool”. Dennis Stock was the name I saw when I came across pictures of Dean and Davis. As the 60s evolved into the flower power years, Dennis Stock was the photographer who took the pictures of the hippie life style. The hippie rituals were well documented by Stock. I loved what he saw.

Miles Davis by Dennis Stock, 1958

So now he’s gone and I haven’t thought about him in years. I have his book, California Trip, published in 1970. It’s really dog-eared by now. The 100 pages of photos are reproduced at a quality somewhat lower than today’s newsprint. I don’t recall if the book always looked this bad, but the pages are yellowed at the corners and shadow detail in the photographs is zero. The pictures aren’t even that good. He seems to be really an outsider looking at California from a distance. His long lenses give the book a voyeuristic aspect. He was a Magnum photographer and in his 40s by 1968. The pictures seem primarily photojournalistic, not personal like Elaine Mayes’ pictures of Haight Ashbury. I guess his best photos were actually made in the 1950s before the photographic revolution created by Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and other new documentarians. Now, I’m attracted to his pictures of celebrities-Marilyn Monroe, Audry Hepburn, Grace Kelly. He was there at the “birth of the cool”. By the time the 60s got into full swing, which was actually about 1970, he wasn’t so “cool” about it anymore.

Marilyn Monroe, 1953

Audrey Hepburn, 1954

Grace Kelly, 1964

I was just noticing all the vertical pictures Stock took. That was the way photojournalists worked in the magazine era. Everything had to conform to the printed page or else you wouldn’t get published.

Venice Beach on Brucemas Day

FYI, Brucemas Day was an event held for Lenny Bruce in Venice, CA in 1968. Maybe it became an annual event. Most likely people now think it’s about Bruce Sprinsteen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kristen Miller permalink
    January 15, 2010 6:24 pm

    Stock was absolutely amazing. Thank, Frank, for sharing. It appears as though he may be a hero of mine too-a legendary one at that….

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