Dennis Stock: The California Trip

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The Independent Culture

Just as his memorable image of James Dean in Times Square in 1955, perfectly captured his subject's moody cool, Dennis Stock's photograph of a woman dancing at a Californian rock festival in 1968 (above) caught the essence of hippie euphoria.

The American photographer, who died in January aged 81, was sent to Hollywood early in his career by the Magnum photo agency. Working in black and white, he took timeless images of Hollywood legends and jazz greats, while also documenting numerous subcultures of the age, from motorcycle gangs to hippies.

For Stock's 1968 photo essay "The California Trip", which includes the aforementioned photograph, he travelled around America's West Coast taking pictures at the zenith of the hippie scene.

"I was attracted by the hippie movement, that was defined by two main principles: caring about others, and a taste for adventure," he explained. "My pictures of hippies are about the search of a better life. I was drawn by what they tried to achieve. The hippy instinct was countercultural, it said 'Let's try to go back to basics'. Hippydom, in a sense, is a return of teenage rebellion, a new, stronger rebellion. Each one of us has a period of rebellion at a certain moment of their lives."

Speaking shortly after the work was completed, Stock said: "Every idea that Western man explores in his pursuit of the best of all possible worlds will be searched at the head lab -California. Technological and spiritual quests vibrate throughout the state, intermingling, often creating the ethereal. It is from this freewheeling potpourri of search that the momentary ensembles in space spring, presenting to the photographer his surrealistic image. However, to the Californians it is all so ordinary, almost mundane. The sensibility of these conditioned victims is where it is all at, right, left, up and down. Our future is being determined in the lab out West. There, a recent trip blew my mind across this state of being, as I collected images along the way to remember the transient quality of the Big Trip."

Dennis Stock's photographs are included in the new Magnum Photos iPhone app which launched today. The app contains photo stories from across the renowned photo agency's archive and also includes "101 photographs for press freedom", images taken from Magnum's collaboration with Reporters Without Borders, a book marking the latter organisation's 25th anniversary.