Dennis Stock: an appreciation

This unforgettable image of James Dean, hunched in his black overcoat, ‘bearing the weight of a generation on his shoulders’ in the words of  Adam Gopnik of  The New Yorker, was photographed by Dennis Stock who has died , aged 82.

‘James Dean taken in Times Square in 1955. He is walking in the rain, cigarette dangling from his lips, the beauty of 1950’s New York in varying shades of black and grey – foggy, misty and utterly compelling – in short a perfect picture… perfect composition, perfect subject, perfect era, perfect mood.”
– Gail Levin, filmmaker

From the Guardian obituary:

James Dean and Audrey Hepburn; Billie Holiday and Sidney Bechet; Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong; gangs of Hells Angels or the “summer of love” epitomised in the image of a long-haired girl silhouetted dreamily dancing onstage before the crowds at a Venice Beach festival: the photographer Dennis Stock, will always be associated with these images from his early years. Yet his long career straddled many genres, including landscapes and cityscapes, plant portraits and architecture…

Stock’s image of Audrey Hepburn gazing out of a car window with a rueful half-smile brought out the star’s youthful look, without pose or affectation. Her “attitude of childlike discovery in an adult world” captivated Stock, and suited his approach.
– Amanda Hopkinson, Guardian obituary

Stock’s love of jazz played … more to the classic imagery of smoky dives and smooching couples, gathered around a piano or bandstand… A New Orleans street scene shows Kid “Punch” Miller, trumpet under one arm, framed between the balcony supports of a traditional French townhouse as he walks home from work.
– Amanda Hopkinson, Guardian obituary

According to the broadcaster Claire O’Neill, the image of the dancing hippy at Venice Beach, from 1968, “was taken at a rock festival when a girl jumped in front of Stock’s camera onstage. It was a fleeting, accidental moment, and yet the photo itself is timeless”.

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