Western Exposure: Dennis Hopper’s “Drugstore Camera”

The American West has never been a static or rigid place, but rather a fluid idea that’s connoted the wildest fringes of the American experience. And when it comes to wild fringes, few American actors—or even artists, for that matter—have explored that frontier more thoroughly than Dennis Hopper.

Born in Dodge City, Kansas, Hopper was a product of the West, and he brought a Western sensibility to both his acting and his photography. In the compilation “Drugstore Camera,” we are treated unambiguously to the latter. Shot on disposable cameras during the post-“Easy Rider” days of his residence in Taos in the 1960s, the never-before-seen images paint a grainy, swirling, and distinctly regional picture of the counter culture that was transforming America during that turbulent decade. The spirit is one of freedom, but also rebellion, born from the angst and idealism that defined the era.

Which isn’t to say the photography is simply documentary—landscapes, portraits, and still-lives enliven a collection that puts Hopper’s true artistic talents on full display. The intimacy he shares with his subjects, combined with his innate familiarity with an untamed land, etches a grander and more revealing portrait than any single photograph ever could. “Drugstore Camera” is a chronicle of a place, a time, and, although Hopper never intended it, the artist himself. Wild fringes and all.

“Drugstore Camera” is currently available for purchase at STAG Provisions. To order a copy, click here