‘Our future is being determined in the lab out West’: Revisiting a classic exploring California in the 1960s

Unless you are a fan of photojournalism and acquainted with its history, you may not recognize the name Dennis Stock. But if you are at all curious about American pop culture, you probably know at least one of his photographs. Stock made the now-iconic photograph of James Dean, bundled up in a black coat with a cigarette dangling from his lips, walking through a damp Times Square in 1955.

Stock also documented other celebrities, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Audrey Hepburn and Marlon Brando. In 1968, Stock headed toward California, where he would make the photographs that would form another classic work, the book “California Trip.”

1968 was a year of turmoil for the United States, a time of social, cultural and political upheaval. For five weeks, Stock traveled up and down the California highways, documenting the counterculture. The hippie scene was at its peak. California was then, and still is, a place many Americans looked to as a hub of innovation and progression. Now, some 50 years later, reading Stock’s introduction to “California Trip” still seems of the moment:

“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. … Our future is being determined in the lab out West.”

Those words seem to ring true for us even today, don’t they?

“California Trip” has long been considered an iconic work, but until now, it has been out of print and too expensive for most people. But thanks to Anthology Editions, an independent book publisher in Brooklyn, it is back in a reprint that is faithful to the original. You can find out more about the book and how to purchase it on the publisher’s website, here.

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