Nostalgic photographs of a ‘Californian Trip’ and capturing the 1960s hippie euphoria
“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.
In 1968, while on a five-week road trip along the California highways, Magnum photographer Dennis Stock set about documenting the height of the counterculture hippie scene.
Stock, who is a heavily celebrated photographer noted for his in-depth photo essays, rose to fame in the late 1950s after meeting iconic actor James Dean in 1955. Immediately hitting it off with their shared creative vision, Stock began to shoot a series of portrait photos of the Dean in Hollywood, his hometown in Indiana, and in New York City which was taken shortly before the actor’s sudden death.
The project created the solid foundations for Stock who was instantly aligned and fascinated with the counterculture movement which would dominate the next decade. “I was attracted by the hippie movement, that was defined by two main principles: caring about others, and a taste for adventure,” he once explained.
“My pictures of hippies are about the search of a better life. I was drawn by what they tried to achieve. The hippy instinct was countercultural, it said ‘Let’s try to go back to basics’. Hippydom, in a sense, is a return of teenage rebellion, a new, stronger rebellion. Each one of us has a period of rebellion at a certain moment of their lives.”
The series would see Stock move away from his typical New York style, exploring the West Coast and the rising hippie movement with a free-flowing sense of boundary-pushing freedom. Shortly after completing the series, Stock said: “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 freewheeling potpourri of search that the momentary ensembles in space spring, presenting to the photographer his surrealistic image. 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.”