Reprinting Dennis Stock’s Seminal Photo Essay on Late 1960s California
Out of print for decades, Dennis Stock’s California Trip is being reissued by Anthology Editions, bringing back into focus the Magnum photographer’s timeless depiction of the hippie scene and various countercultures so prevalent during the 1960s in the United States.
© Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos - San Diego, from California Trip, Reissued by Anthology Editions
Anthology Editions reprinted a faithful reproduction of Dennis Stock’s cult book, California Trip. Originally published in 1970, it’s a collection of what Stock called “the lab out West”, where “our future is being determined”. Afraid by California on his first trip there in the 50’s, he went back a decade later with sincere curiosity and captured the overwhelmingly free scene bustling around with the sharp eye of an explorer, investigating various life-style proposals being experimented right then.
It was a time when you would bump into a hippie at every corner, when peace and freedom became leitmotivs, and when a science race started to grow out of measure – a time when people were disguised as monkeys and monkeys were used as guinea pigs. Planet of Apes had just been released, with its dreadful promises, and in response California was on a “pursuit of the best of all possible worlds”, as Stock writes in the introduction of his book.
© Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos - Venice, from California Trip, Reissued by Anthology Editions
Stock documented all these possibilities, starting with a double spread featuring an antithetical, statement-like, parallel. On the left side, a couple from the older generation, bundled up in old style clothes, including hat and bow tie. Facing them on the right page, a couple lovingly squeezed together on a horse, barely wearing a short.
What humanity is seeking lies in the hands of the next generation, Stock states with this spread, and it’s typically clashing with the old model. A man driving a 1906 Buick is being controlled by the police. At the opposite, Stock’s iconic photograph of a young woman dancing freely on a stage overlooking the beach. Her hair, disheveled by the move, the contortions of her hands, her dress largely open on her back, every detail of the photograph made it an ode to freedom, and summarizes the book. Yet, there are churches, trapped monkeys and policemen.
© Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos - Mars Station, Goldstone, from California Trip, Reissued by Anthology Editions
Each page is a demonstration of Stock’s genius and colorful personality. It’s also a demonstration in sequencing. He changes distances, sometimes indecently close to his subject, sometimes as far as we can barely distinguish a couple. He plays on oppositional motives, capturing a pristine beach when it’s entirely overshadowed with a plane flying above. But mainly, he conveys the exhilarating, humorous atmosphere of the time. And for that, the sea happens to be his best ally, a symbol of a endless horizon of possibilities. The last picture says it all: “The way”, a sign reads, at the end of a headland.
California Trip by Dennis Stock
Published by Anthology Editions
Softcover // 110 pages // 100 images // 23 x 28 cm // US$35
Dennis Stock (1928-2010) was a American photographer. He was a member of Magnum Photos and is famous for his photographs of James Dean and of the jazz scene of the 50s-60s.
Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb.