What makes a Hollywood icon legendary? His leading roles? Absolutely, yes. His photographs? Definitely, yes – especially if its composition and mood is as utterly perfect as this James Dean portrait.
Dennis Stock, a former member of Magnum Photos, took this unforgettable photograph of James Dean, the rebel without a cause, on commission for a LIFE magazine article. In 1951, the two met in Los Angeles at the house of Nicholas Ray, who directed one of Dean’s movies.
Stock photographed Dean a number of times and established Dean’s legacy with his memorable portraits. This particular photograph of Dean eternalized his charisma: solitarily walking in the rain along Times Square, with his back hunched, his hands buried in his black overcoat, and a cigarette between his lips, his shadow falling on the soaked street – the atmosphere and mood of this image is truly compelling and mesmerizing.
This photograph, originally named On Times Square, was later referred to as The Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It became more charismatic and memorable when just months later, Dean passed away in a car crash. He lived fast and died young, but he will be remembered through his films and still photographs, such as the one shot by Stock.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.