So yesterday was more or less a James Dean Day for me. A rainy Sunday here in Indianapolis and I finally decided to go down to the State Museum to see the exhit James Dean Comes Home.. To be honest it really wasn't so much an exhibit as it was a hallway with only about 25 photos up. There was very little text about the photos. And even if the photos of a total icon were striking it wasn't until I went down to the gift store to look at a book that I realized more of what was going on.
The photos were taken by Dennis Stock and can mostly be found from the book James Dean: Fifty Years ago
. So it turns out that the Stock had met James Dean shortly before the Hollywood premiere of East of Eden. James invited him then to the premiere. After the premiere Stock sought Dean out and asked if he could see him the next morning. They met and Stock eventually after they escaped some of Dean's adoring fans had chosen to work together on a photo study of sorts. If I remember correctly it was finaced, at least in part, by Life Magazine. A few weeks later they were off to New York and then Fairmont, IN. The famous photo of James Dean walking in the rain with a cig and a peat coat(shown above) was taken dduring this trip by Stock. The exhibit had that photo and about 6 others taken by stock in NY, 6 or so in Hollywood and about 12-15 in Fairmont, IN. It was the pictures in Fairmont that hit me the most.
The trip was about 6-7 months before James Dean's death. And it was James' last trip to Indiana before death. There were a few photos of James in a coffin taken during this trip, and though James Dean seems playful in the photos they have a macabre feeling when you think of what was to happen 7 months later. This one was part of the exhibit.
It's always difficult to tell how many of photos such as the one's on display were truly candid's and how many were actual portrayals of emotion and true personality. There is a point where it's gotta be taken into account that these were going into Life Magazine and that there was an image that James and Stock definately wanted to portray. At the same time though when you realize that James Dean was only 24 or 25 at the time of these photos it's easy to think or hope that some of the photos were truly portrayals of his personality. There are more than a few of him with his cousin Markie that seemed to portray his youth and personality at least as one would hope it was. Some of him reading comic books (the comic books one was my fave and with a soapbox car. Those photo's specifically made me glad I went. Probably the most difficult photo to look at was this which has to take on some sorta extra strange resonace to some after seeing East of Eden in which James Dean's character is named Cal Trask.
Anyway, I definately think the exhibit is worth checking out. Especially if you have an admiration for James Dean. It could have been put together much better, and likely deserved better placement and a bit more background about the story of the photo's. But if you do know a bit of the background it makes it all the more worthwhile to see. I will likely go back to see it again.
I meant to write a bit about East of Eden, but ran out of time I will likely do that soon. I hope.