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.