Before he directed and starred in the cult 1969 classic “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper was mingling in the LA Art scene as a photographer. His prime subjects consisted of celebrities, leading figures, and the counterculture that surrounded the Hollywood life.
The late actor began taking pictures at the age of 18, when James Dean encouraged him to pick up a camera; the two had starred together in Rebel Without A Cause. Hopper described photography as his creative outlet. “I never made a cent from these photos,” he said, “they cost me money but kept me alive.” Between the years 1961 and 1967, Hopper shot well over 10,000 images in black and white film, always sourcing natural light, and never cropping his images.
After his death in 2010, boxes of prints the actor had prepared for an art show back in the 1970s, laid untouched and waiting to be admired once again. This collection represents the years from 25-31.
There were portraits of Paul Newman and Jane Fonda, his artist friends Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg and Edward Kienholz, the Hells Angels, hippies, and rioters. Hopper even made his way to Montgomery, Alabama, in ’65 to capture the civil rights movement. Partied in ’63 with Warhol at the Factory in NYC, shot for Vogue in ’65 where he captured Brian Jones, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds and James Brown, not to mention he did the cover image for Ike and Tina Turner’s River Deep – Mountain High album.
People weren’t his only focus, Hopper often went on walks in Los Angeles and New York, were he would capture the abstract world of the streets for himself; the texture of steel, wood and fabric, shop-signs and storefronts lingered on paper, his photography reminiscing the style of Walker Evans. His longtime friend Ed Ruscha said, “through his eyes, I can see a virtual dictionary of the City of Los Angeles.”
CREDIT: All images, Courtesy of The Hopper Art Trust
[via] The Guardian