“They say you start out shooting what’s directly around you,” says photographer Lauren Dukoff. In her case, it just happened to be artist and folk singer Devendra Banhart, with whom she’s been best friends ever since a high school English teacher noted their similar writing styles and introduced them. Blessed with unprecedented access to the photogenic neo-hippie during his rise to fame, Dukoff built her portfolio traipsing through Topanga Canyon with Banhart and his merry band of indie musicians.
Dukoff was raised in Malibu, California in an artistic household: Her mother works for the Santa Monica Museum of Art and her father is a director and a photographer. Mostly self-taught, Dukoff credits her mentor, photographer Autumn De Wilde, as a guiding force. De Wilde, in turn, compliments Dukoff’s ability to gain her subjects’ trust: “She is extraordinarily observant without making people feel watched or hunted.”
Dukoff’s stripped-down imagery is steeped in nostalgia; one almost expects a long-haired John Lennon to walk into the frame. Conjuring this classic-rock era comes with its own anachronistic methods—Dukoff shoots with film and a Mamiya 645—and a sense of responsibility to carry the flame for “rock doc” photography. Her photos have been published in Rolling Stone and Spin and were recently exhibited at the Hammer Museum. She says the show was great, except for one thing: “There were a lot of penises and my grandparents were there.” This year, Chronicle Books will publish Family, Dukoff’s photos of Banhart and his loose-knit hippie collective. As she pages through the golden-lit spreads, Dukoff marvels that this moment will be preserved as a sort of public photo album for her and her friends. “When you find someone you connect with, you hold onto them tight,” she says. Or, in Dukoff’s world, you take a photo.