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Monday, 18 January 2010


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It's hard for me to imagine that anyone could have overlooked Dennis Stock. I have most of his books, including two copies of his great "California Trip," a wonderful volume of black & white decisive moments. My favorite, though, is his "New England" book.

Dave's comment is interesting. Stock's name is as familiar to me, from as long ago, as, say, Bruce Davidson's. But on the other hand, I've never seen his "New England book"...

I've owned Dennis Stock's book "Brother Sun" longer, I think, than any other photo book. At least as long as Ernst Haas's "The Creation." Come to think of it, those two form a very nice pair.

There is an overview of Stock's work on the Magnum Photos website, magnum.com.

- Rob

Wow, I have always loved the photo, but never knew Stock was the subject. Thanks for that bit of information, but more for the added insight into Stock as a human being.

That Andreas Feininger photograph is of Dennis Stock? How did I not know that? I always thought it was a self portrait.
I do now remember now a teacher jokingly referring to it as "Feininger's stock photographer photograph" but I thought he meant something else.

Well that's quite a cool bit of trivia! Dennis Stock was the model for that famous Andreas Feininger photo! How did you learn that, Jim?

Same here--I love that photograph, had no idea it was Dennis Stock. Then again, I had no idea who Dennis Stock was until NPR did a piece on him last fall, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival and an exhibit of his 60's work at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (his home town). NPR cast him as the photographer of the Woodstock generation as well as "one of its free-spirited, anarchistic exemplars."

Stock on Stock: "I think that if there is a thread to be observed throughout my work it's that I'm relatively affirmative: I'm not inclined to make fools of people, and I love beauty."

I want to learn more - follow more about Dennis Stock, also.

"He had strong, well thought out opinions, and they might spill out at the drop of a hat, so to speak. I found him to be as much philosopher as photographer. For some reason, he brought to mind a Talmudic scholar, although we never talked religion. In any event, there was nothing shallow about Dennis Stock."

Not to take anything away at all from this tribute of him, but something like this could be said of you Mike, in my opinion, with all due respect.

As soon as I read the description of the photo above I remembered seeing it in one of the Life Library of Photography books. It's in The Camera, the photo is dated 1955 and is simply titled 'Photojournalist'.

Interesting stuff. I wish Eggleston was easy to emulate though. I don't think that's true.

Yes, sometimes Eggleston is hard for even Eggleston to emulate.


Jim Hughes - "Okay, enough of my trip down memory lane."

Thank you Jim. I could read this stuff all day long.

The Andreas Feininger photo is of course spectacular. No way it could not be a classic.

I find it funny/interesting that it takes a real effort for me, though, to see the lens and viewfinder as eyes. I tend to see it as a camera with a man behind instead of as a "cyborg". Perhaps because I'm so used to looking at cameras?

I guess most people tend to anthropomorphise things. Me, I see a cloud in a cloud, not Washington crossing the Delaware*. And I see a puppy with sunglasses, not a little furry person.

* Ref: Linus from Peanuts.

I am inclined to agree with Stock's remark, ""Bear in mind that a large portion of our critics, educators or historians cannot take a good picture or recognize one. So it's very easy for them to lionize the [William] Egglestons and the types who indulge in craftless banality."

We have a big Eggleston exhibit opening here at the Art Institute of Chicago on February 27. I have very mixed feelings about it. Try as I might, and I have, I do not see the value in the guy's work that justifies the gilding that the art world has applied to it. Even the following statement in the exhibit's description whiffs of an excuse for "craftlessness": "By not censoring, rarely editing, and always photographing even the seemingly banal, Eggleston convinces us completely of the idea of the democratic camera." Oh bullshit. But museum curators and, of course, dealers and auctioneers love this stuff. (And, indeed, I don't know one of that group that could hope to ever take a good picture.)

Thank you, Jim, for your reflections on Dennis Stock and to you, Mike, for providing the context and space for the discussion. My memory for routine things like names is terrible, but the interview with Dennis Stock was clearly inspirational, and I revel in such experiences. Reading the post has jolted me into seeing that the interview was one of a series of inputs during my early adult years that informed my developing sense of social responsibility and hinted that photography was an area worth exploring.

Thanks, Rod S.

I aspire to have a show of my photographs someday. I think I will title it "derivative photography" or perhaps "cliche photography". They say honesty will get you someplace.

There's a tribute at TIME here.

Wow. The original post and subsequent comments are, I think, an example of this site at its best. Thanks Mike.

It's not "magnum.com" it's "http://www.magnumphotos.com"

I have tried to like Eggleston and I'm happy to say that I do and I don't think Arbus was that easy to emulate. I like the idea of the democratic camera but art's not a democracy, it's not made for everybody. We're not all gonna have the same experiences to someone's work, we're going to have different responses, just like the one Phillip Jones Griffiths had to Martin Parr joining Magnum:

"Let me state that I have great respect for him as the dedicated enemy of everything I believe in and, I trust, what Magnum still believes in"

Bresson to Parr:

“the philosophy of a man taking himself seriously, without humor, where rancor and scorn dominate, a nihilistic attitude symptomatic of society today.”

Parr's response:

“I acknowledge there is a large gap between your celebration of life and my implied criticism of it [...] What I would query with you is 'Why shoot the messenger?'”

Griffiths was a very good Photographer, Bresson a great one, but both very different to Parr, as was Stock to Eggleston and to Parr. Parr got in Magnum by one vote, I don't know how Stock voted, but I reckon it was no.

Museum curators only say annoying things as far as I can see.

For me there is nothing banal, or well, anything less than perfect in a http://www.photoeye.com/BookteaseLight/bookteaselight.cfm?catalog=TT142&image=3>picture like this

Just a couple of thoughts on this side-debate on art and photography:

That Stock (and Jones Griffiths and Cartier-Bresson) did not like or understand (or perhaps understood and did not like the implications of) postmodern photography is understandable, and I'm sure it surprised no one at the time. I don't think their reaction detracts at all from the work of Parr and Eggleston, nor from their own.

These quotes and exchanges, as generously shared here by Jim Hughes and sean, remind me of bitter exchanges surrounding other upheavals in art (I'm thinking of the advent of the impressionists, specifically). In hindsight, the passion and vehemence of criticism from the established old guard at these moments almost serve to anoint the new movements.

Eolake, I always thought the point of the photograph was not so much that someone with a camera looks like a cyborg, but that a photographer in the act really is a cyborg. Though of course it would help to see the semblance first.

I recall reading this past year the story of a young, raw-boned
photographer who had the good fortune to meet Dennis Stock back in NYC. He had gone to New York hoping for some professional feedback 're' his fledgling portfolio. He checked a local phone book and found a listing under Dennis' name. He was both surprised and delighted to find Dennis at home. However, Stock informed him that he and his wife were frantically packing to move to Europe and would be leaving later that day. Nonetheless, he said to come by anyways.
This meeting and Dennis' polite words of encouragement changed
his life as a photographer. Dennis was that kind of a person.

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