Posts Tagged ‘James Dean’

Photography | Dennis Hopper’s 1960s

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album
Vintage Photographs of the 1960s
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
Until 17th December, 2012

Dennis Hopper’s first major exhibition of 400 photographs from the thousands he took between the years 1961 and 1967, was at Fort Worth Museum, Texas in 1970 – one year after the release of the counterculture film, Easy Rider, which he directed, co-starred in and also co-wrote. Mounted on cardboard, without frames or glass, the small prints that he sometimes numbered on the back and to which he added brief notes were attached directly to the wall and kept in place by thin strips of wood. When the show finished everything was put into storage, tucked away in five large crates that lay forgotten and were only re-discovered after his death in 2010.

In Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel by Peter L Winkler, (Barricade Books, 2011), the author reveals how Hopper, who came from Kansas, told James Dean, while on the set of Rebel without a Cause, in which he had small role: ‘I hated my home life, the rules, the regimentation… everybody neurotic because they weren’t doing what they wanted to do, and yelling at me when I wanted to be creative, because creative people end up in bars.’ Born in 1936, Hopper would have been in his mid to late twenties when he took the images that form the exhibition at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau: Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album, none of which have been exhibited in Europe before. In the late 1950s he had left home and gone to San Diego, California to study acting. Having achieved early success, his acting career in Hollywood stalled in 1958, as the result of a serious spat with the director of From Hell to Texas, whereupon Hopper left for New York to study method acting with the legendary Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio. Aside from acting, he wrote poetry and produced paintings and after receiving his first camera as a gift in 1961, took up photography.

Hopper’s photographs reflect the atmosphere of an exciting and turbulent era in the USA when America, via photographers like Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Gary Winogrand and Diane Arbus, was re-inventing the documentary tradition. And while perhaps his work at this stage is not quite so recognisably individual or always as accomplished as that of these esteemed contemporaries, like theirs, Hopper’s is spontaneous, intimate and keenly observed: it captures an epoch, its protagonists and milieus. Many of the pictures on show are of the icons to whom he was attracted: including James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman and Jane Fonda but Hopper exercised an intense enthusiasm and curiosity for everything he encountered, from street life in Harlem to bullfights in Tijuana and cemeteries in Mexico. His relentless thirst for photographic subjects led from his family to musicians, Hell’s Angels and hippies, and to his accompanying Martin Luther King on a civil rights march through Alabama, capturing the essential moments of their lives in the prints that are a fascinating album of just a few years of his own.

Dennis Hopper images from top
Paul Newman, 1964
Malibu, California, USA

James Rosenquist, 1964
Billboard Factory, Los Angeles, California, USA

Double Standard, 1961
Los Angeles, California, USA

Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney, and Jeff Goodman, 1963
USA

Martin Luther King, Jr, 1965
Montgomery, Alabama, USA

All photographs © The Dennis Hopper Trust
All photographs courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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