Inspired Works

Dennis Stock

Background of the artist: Can you find any connection between their childhood/background, socio economic background, lifestyle etc. that informed their work.

Dennis Stock was born july 24, 1928 in New York, in the later years of what most called the Roaring Twenties, where America was in the process of transitioning from a wartime economy to that of a peacetime economy.  Stock joined the US Army in 1947 at the young age of 19 and served for 5 years before being discharged in 1951.

Soon after leaving the army he became an assistant to Eugene Smith, the king of Life photo-essayists only to be let go a few weeks later and told to pursue an apprenticeship with Gjon Mili (who Eugene felt was better prepared to handle stock), the gregarious Albanian, whose lively studio, full of dancers, musicians, actors and models, became Stock’s university.

As a 23-year-old, Stock came to national attention in 1951 when he won the first prize in the story division of Life magazine’s young photographers’ contest for his photo essay on the arrival in New York of emigrants from Europe who had been homeless since the end of World War II.

Does the photographer have a political affiliation? Does the photographer have a philosophical viewpoint that influences their work? I.e. what is their world view and can you connect this to their work

Dennis Stock called himself the “self-assigned” photographer because he did the work he wanted to do. He would find something that interested him and chase after it with his camera until he was satisfied with what he had captured.

“I’m not a photojournalist, and never wanted to be one. I am a photo essayist. I will never follow the news of the day, but search out my own stories based on what enlightens me, what helps me grow, what gives me spiritual insight – in short, what I love.” I feel that this sentiment can be seen throughout all his life’s work especially in that of his time he spent with actor James Dean, where he captured the ‘real’ james dean and not the james dean the world saw in the movies.

“I just go out there and follow my nose and if it ends up being iconic, so be it, it is not in my intention. “

“Art is a well-articulated manifestation of an aspect of life. I have been privileged to view much of life through my cameras, making the journey an enlightened experience. My emphasis has mainly been on affirmative reactions to human behaviour and a strong attraction to the beauty in nature.”

What camera/technical aspects of their work need to be explored and how do you intend to explore this in your own work?

There wasn’t much literature available about what camera Dennis Stock used for his photography

What are the main points about the artist that you are attracted too? Ie why do you like their work? Is it all surface or is there something deeper running here

I’m drawn to how he captures another side of the subject that may be overlooked so easily.  His visual biography of James Dean back at home with his family show a different James Dean, one that was not yet hit by the lime light. He also took photographs of Audrey Hepburn during her filming of the movie “Sabrina” before she had hit the big time aswell.

I found what Stock said about Hepburn interesting “She was very un-Hollywood, which was the key to the whole thing. She wasn’t glamorous. She didn’t try to be glamorous.”

I believe he produced great photos of the actors he worked with and exposed a different side of them, a more true and natural side of the person.

What were the primary cultural and political movements of the time?

From the late ‘50s and early ‘60s the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing while he was taking lively portraits of jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Sidney Bechet, Gene Krupa and Duke Ellington and produced a book “Jazz Street”.

Hugh Hefner had launched Playboy Magazine during a time where sex was still relatively an unspoken topic.

In the late ‘60s he was taking photos of the hippies attempting to reshape society according to ideals of love and caring.

The  swinging ‘60s witnessed the Vietnam war, The Beatles, the Jfk assassination, Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech, Feminism, Woodstock and Man walking on the moon

What other art movements were happening at the time?

At that time in Hollywood there was a wave of style emanating from the Actors Studio, there was Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and Montgomery Cliff to name a few and he felt that James Dean was the next to join the ranks of them.

Abstract expressionism which was the first American specific art movement gained worldwide influence which was responsible for putting New York City in the centre of the artistic world. Jackson Pollock was one of the most influential artists of this particular movement.

The Pop art movement was art based on modern popular culture and the mass media. Two influential proponents of this movement were Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstein.

We were given the task of copying/emulating the style of the photographer and coming up with our own photos. I used these photos as the basis of my work for this task.


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