Dennis Stock’s California is that of an outsider, shooting the most obvious aspects of West Coast life against the diverse, strange, and fascinating backdrop of the late 1960s.

I’ve never been able to pin down what it is about California that creates its dreamers. Is it stereotypes that attract a certain persona, the expansive variety of its landscape, the mystique of Mexican culture, or the omnipresent glamour — real or imagined — of Hollywood? A new publication from Anthology Editions titled California Trip presents the work of Magnum photographer Dennis Stock, whose photographs suggest that he asked himself these very same questions.

“Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.” — Joan Didion, “The White Album”

Spending five weeks driving up and down California’s highways in 1968, as hippie counterculture descended into what Joan Didion refers to as “the paranoia of the time,” the 99 black-and-white photographs in the book take us from the delivery trucks of San Francisco’s Chinatown to the elaborate costuming on the set of Charlton Heston’s Planet of the Apes. A New Yorker known best for his photographs of James Dean, Stock saw California as an outsider, shooting the most obvious aspects of West Coast life — car culture, palm trees, surfers, Hells Angels, bathing beauties, Berkeley hippies — against the diverse, strange, and fascinating backdrop of the late 1960s.

Look at the photographs for longer, however, and they shift away from the obvious to collectively tell the story of California’s surreal way of life, where a multitude of contrasting visuals create a fluid line between the real, the aspirational, and the imagined. Consider a row of iconic palm trees framed by industrial oil pumps in a residential neighborhood, a Planet of the Apes extra casually waiting at a bus stop in full costume, or a construction hat sitting abandoned in the middle of a highway in barren Barstow. “Surrealism was everywhere, the juxtapositions of relative levels of reality projected chaos,” Stock writes in the introduction, describing what attracted his gaze during those transient five weeks and setting the book’s overall tone. – Read the full article – Hyperallergic

California Trip by Dennis Stock (2019) is published by Anthology Editions