Farewell to Dennis Stock
I was sad to learn that photographer Dennis Stock has died at age 81, after a short bout with cancer. Yesterday, I opened up the latest issue of Time magazine and gasped when I found his obituary. For those unfamiliar with his work, he is perhaps best known for his photos of actor James Dean, taken shortly before Dean died. In fact, on the day that he died, Dean asked Dennis if he wanted to join along in what was to be his last and fatal car ride. Dennis said no, and lived to tell about it. Here’s a link to a Magnum Photography’s slideshow series of his work, narrated by Dennis. It’s divided into projects. Jazz, James Dean and The Hippies are my favorites: The Self Assigned Photographer | Magnum In Motion. Meanwhile, his most famous photo (of James Dean):
I got to know Dennis several summers ago at the Omega Institute (Wellness – Personal Growth and Mind, Body, Spirit – Omega Institute) in Rhinebeck, NY. Steve and I go there every summer for a week during their Arts Week. During that time, you can sign up for one of many five day workshops. That year Dennis Stock was one of the workshop instructors, leading a course he called The Articulate Image. I considered signing up for it, but wasn’t sure whether it would be too basic. Having already taken a couple of other workshops that were being given that year, I chose one that I hadn’t: a very popular gospel singing workshop which is attended by a lot of middle aged white women. Ninety minutes into the first morning, I was getting hoarse and sleepy singing repetitious choruses praising god beneath the workshop leader’s strong voice. So, at the break, I decided to check on the other workshops. That’s when I walked into the cabin where Dennis was talking about and showing examples of his work, and ended up hanging around for the rest of the week. The other workshop members were mostly beginners, and it was definitely an ego boost that Dennis loved my work, saying I was the “real deal,” but mostly it was great getting to know Dennis and working along with the other workshop members. Dennis was an Omega oddity. He told the truth. If he hated your work, he told you he hated it. That was a shock. At Omega, everyone is wonderful. You never suck at Omega. He opened a lot of eyes in that workshop. There were tears, and a some indignation. I admired his honesty and clarity. By the end of the week, many eyes were opened, and the group loved him for it.
Dennis taught the workshop again the following two summers. The second summer, we heard that he had almost died the winter before, and now he was using a cane. Last summer he had graduated to a scooter.
I don’t remember what we were doing when I took the following photo, but here is my farewell photo to Dennis: