Dennis Stock, famous for his black and white photos capturing the intriguing characters of Hollywood’s golden era, will be celebrated in New York City, at the Milk Gallery.
Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday are only a few of the stars who will be featured in the Dennis Stock photographs retrospective exhibition.
Dennis Stock’s road from the grey Bronx to golden Hollywood
Dennis Stock was born in New York city’s Bronx on July 24, 1928, to an English mother and a Swiss father. At the age of 17, he left home and enrolled in the US Navy, during World War II. In the aftermath of the War, he returned to New York and became photographer Gjon Mili‘s apprentice. He soon started winning his share of awards, and became an associate member and full partner-member shortly, of the Magnum photography agency – founded by famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1947.
Stock briefly became Magnum’s Hollywood representative, specializing in portraying movie stars – such as James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Marylin Monroe – and jazz musicians, such as Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington.
The story behind Dennis Stock’s most iconic photograph
In 1955, Life Magazine published one of Dennis Stock’s most recognizable photos: “James Dean walking in Times Square”.
Stock had met James Dean at a party, befriending him without even knowing who the young actor was. After seeing a preview of East of Eden in Santa Monica, Stock was so impressed with Dean’s performance, that he wanted to create his visual biography.
During a road-trip back to Dean’s hometown in Indiana, Stock captured unguarded moments of the actor eating at his family’s dinner table or sitting in his old classroom. He then portrayed Dean walking in the rain in New York’s Time Square – his shoulders hunched, his collar pulled up and his cigarette swinging on his lips. Dean died later that year, in an unfortunate car crash. Stock’s photo became an iconic image of the young actor’s life, being one of the most reproduced photographs of the post-war era.
“An attitude of childlike discovery into adult existence”
The iconic photos of James Dean and other golden stars of the past do not exhaust Stock’s career. Along with portraying America’s cinematic and musical high society, he also took wonderful photos of street scenes in New York City, Paris and California. Moreover, in the 1960’s he began documenting the rebellious counterculture of bikers and hippies.
From nature details and landscapes to the modern architecture of the urban giants and the restlessness of those who are in the spotlight, Dennis Stock had a flair for spotting beauty. He aimed at being as visually articulate as possible – especially when the subject was suffering, always trying to spot “an attitude of childlike discovery into adult existence”.
“Call it art or not, we, the photographers, should always try to pass on our observations with the utmost clarity,” Stock said.
Between April 2 and April 17, The Milk Gallery – located at 450 W. 15th Street in New York City – will be celebrating this great observer of the American life and culture.