1960s California Road Trip • Dennis Stock • Magnum Photos

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Satanists, Surfers, Hippies and Radicals: Dennis Stock’s California Trip

The photographer's 1970 photobook captured the Golden State at the apex of its freewheeling countercultural heyday

Dennis Stock

Dennis Stock Venice Beach Rock Festival. California. USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

“There is no question that the Americans are vagabonds,” said Dennis Stock, “Our highway system and size makes it very attractive to ‘truck on down’.” He was speaking in reference to Road People, a 1971 documentary photography project focused on hitchhikers and other people he came across on the United States’ famous open roads, but he revealed something of his own wanderlust when he went on to say, “Many of us take to the road in motorhomes, trailers, on motorcycles or by hitchhiking. This itch to see ‘what is over the hill’ is something that I can easily relate to as a photographer.”

Dennis Stock San Diego Coastline. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

"The people were constructing layers and dimensions of life that unsettled me"

- Dennis Stock
Dennis Stock North Hollywood. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Military display. Sacramento State Fair. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Man holding a surfboard on beach steps in Corona Del Mar. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

Stock’s own restlessness drew him to the highways in the 1960s, when he drove through California, taking in the unique, heady spirit of the place, and photographing the curious characters he met along the way, from cult leaders, to hippies, off-duty actors, nudists and countless other free spirits that are drawn to the state.

Here, as summer draws toward a close, we present Dennis Stock’s California photographs alongside his own text on the west coast state, taken from his 1970 book, California Trip.

A number of Stock’s photographs from California Trip are available as fine prints, on the Magnum Shop, here. In addition, two new contact sheets from the body of work are also available here, and here

California Trip will be reissued this fall by Anthology Editions.

Dennis Stock The University of California campus at Irvine. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Along the waterfront in Venice. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock A parade in Watts. Los Angeles, California. USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

"Surrealism was everywhere, the juxtapositions of relative levels of reality projected chaos"

- Dennis Stock
Dennis Stock The University of California, at Irvine. California. USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock California. USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

“For many years California frightened me; the contrasting arenas of life shook me up. Even though I found the sun and fog, sand and Sierras which conveyed a firm image of stark reality, the mother vision of life, the state seemed unreal. The people were constructing layers and dimensions of life that unsettled me. Surrealism was everywhere, the juxtapositions of relative levels of reality projected chaos. For the young man with traditional concerns for a spiritual aesthetic order, California seemed too unreal. I ran.

Dennis Stock Pacifist demonstrating at Santa Monica. "Waste more land" aludes to the name of the US Commander- in- Chief in Vietnam, General Westmoreland. California. USA. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

"Our future is being determined in the lab out West"

- Dennis Stock
Dennis Stock The "Dennis the Menace Park" in Monterey. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Hippies on the Berkeley campus. California. USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Bikini on a California beach. USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Couple in Novato. California, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

Fifteen years since my first trip West, I have some new thoughts about gloryville. 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 freewheelin potpourri of search that the momentary ensembles in space spring, presenting to the photographer his surrealistic image.

Dennis Stock Anton Szandor La Vey, the High Priest of the Church of Satan. California. USA. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

"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
Dennis Stock The beach at Pacific Grove. California. USA. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock A father. Berkeley, California. USA © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock Playa Del Rey. Los Angeles, USA. 1968. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos

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.”

Read the other stories from the Road Trips series here: Inge Morath’s Road to Reno and Thomas Hoepker’s Coast to Coast.

Dennis Stock Memorial Park, San Francisco. California. © Dennis Stock | Magnum Photos