In the late 1960s Dennis Stock took to the road, succumbing to an urge to explore. “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,” he said. Stock was about to create a portrait of California during the peak of America’s countercultural heyday, from 1968-69. He photographed surfers, drop-outs, anti-war protesters, satanists, and civil rights activists. The work would become his seminal book California Trip. In this image from the project, taken at Venice Beach Rock Festival, Dennis Stock captures but one of the attempts of California’s non-conformists to reshape society according to the ideals of love and peace. He described the voyage through the Golden State as nothing less than extraordinary: “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 was a photo essayist known for his work on both coasts of America, photographing jazz musicians and movie stars in New York as well as the counterculture of California in the late 1960s.

Born in New York City in 1928, Stock served in the US military before winning a LIFE magazine prize for young photographers in 1951 and became a full member of Magnum Photos in 1954. The following year he met James Dean, just months before the young film star’s death, and would photograph perhaps the most famous image of his career: a portrait of Dean walking through a rainy Times Square, coat collar pulled up, a lit cigarette hanging from his bottom lip.

In the late 1950s Stock undertook his series “Jazz Street”, shooting spirited portraits of some of history’s most influential jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. What followed was some of Stock’s most critically lauded work: the project California Trip.

In the preface to his 1970 book of the same name, Stock wrote, “For many years, California frightened me.” But after a period documenting movie sets, cult leaders, Hells Angels bikers, black militants and the hippies trying to create a new utopia in America’s Golden State, Stock’s opinion changed: he started to view California as a “head lab”, somewhere that “technological and spiritual quests vibrate … intermingling, often creating the ethereal”.

Stock made this image at the Venice Beach Rock Festival in 1968. Over decades, it has come to epitomize the promise of California in the late 1960s; the hippie dream of peace, love and happiness.

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