Photography may not bring back what has long gone, but for many, it can provide a passage to explore important happenings or moments from people's personal histories. A simple photograph can encapsulate deep-rooted emotions and memories of people, events and times that have long gone. Photographer Daniel Kramer's photographs of singer and songwriter Bob Dylan taken over a period of one year in the mid-'60s immortalize the unique energy and the times of this greatest of poets. Kramer's inimitable lens capture Dylan in various settingsvarious concerts, backstage, at home, in the studio and silently witnessing probably Dylan's most creative periods of his artistic career. It's the period during which he wrote some of his career highlightshis photographs adorn two album covers from this period, Bring it On HomeHighway 61 Revisited and plenty of his photographs can be found at the supersized 18 CD box set Bootlegs Vol. 12 Cutting Edge.
Kramer's photographs were first published in 1967, but renowned publisher Taschen has published a superb new edition of his collection that also features previously never before published photographs. Even after all these years, Kramer is renowned for the extraordinary access he has had and his ability to capture many perfect moments. His photographs were also exhibited at the Taschen gallery in Los Angeles as part of the '60s series that also encompassed photographs from different fields such as sports and politics.
All About Jazz: Your current exhibition in LA, where your photographs of Bob Dylan are exhibited, is part of Taschen's '60s series of photographic exhibitions. You met Dylan more than 50 years ago, in 1964. What was happening in pop culture, politics and journalism at that time?
Daniel Kramer: It was a very interesting time. The '60s was a time of opening up of new communications, of new attitudes. There was a certain sense of looseness. It was a very creative time. A lot of artists were doing interesting things in music, photography -everything. So, the '60s were very interesting times and very also very difficult times. There was a lot of unrest in my country at the time. We lost the president who he was shot. We lost a religious leader who was also shot. It was a tragic time and it was a time of growth.
AAJ: What was it about Bob Dylan at the time when you saw him perform on TV that made you want to approach him and his management to have his photographs taken?
DK: The lyrics I heard on TV. He was singing "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol" and it was such a poetic clarity that I thought that this was very special, especially for a young person. Also, it was very dangerous, because he was speaking about how the law created a misjustice. So, this interested me because of the social issue, because of his language and because of his performance. I decided to try to find him to make his picture.
AAJ: What was your first impression of Dylan when you met him in person for the first time?
DK: He was friendly, but he wasn't too open. He was being a little protective of himself which I understand. I'm the same way. He was friendly and he offered me the opportunity to make pictures, but he didn't like to pose. He said he preferred if I just took pictures of what he was doing, which was fine with me, but at one point I got him to sit for a portrait. And that's what I really wanted. But what happened was, instead of having one hour to photograph him it became five hours. We had a good time taking pictures. I was doing what he liked and he was doing what I liked. We stopped and went to lunch in Woodstock. He played chess and I took pictures. He took my camera and took pictures of me. We had a really nice afternoon. That was my first session with him.
AAJ: The photographs were taken at various settings which indicates that you really had tremendous access to Dylan. Why did he trust you?
DK: Why did he trust me? Everyone trusts me. I'm a trustworthy person. I give that feeling. That's my reputation. I protect my subjects. I do not show all the pictures. I keep a confidence. I'm a reasonable person. All of these things. Also, I'm friendly and I'm funny.
AAJ: At the time when you were taking all those photographs were you aware that you were witnessing something historical and significant?
DK: It's easy to say that now because it's a hindsight. I was aware of the fact that he wrote and sang "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol." That's all I knew about him. I never heard him perform anything else up to that time. I did not know who he was and I knew nothing about his background nor his history. I knew nothing about the other songs when I first met him, but I did know he wrote "Blowing in the Wind," cause someone told me that before I went to see him. What happened was when he saw my pictures he invited me to come with him to a concert. So, I went two weeks after that to Philadelphia and I photographed the concert. That was the first time I heard his music. And I heard him play other songs and I was fascinated. I thought he was terrific. Really terrific. I liked what he was doing and I liked his lyrics. So, I kept shooting.
Then, one thing led to another thing and he was going to do this concert. So, I went there. Then, he was going to make an album. So, I went to photograph him making the album. Then I heard "Maggie's Farm" and then I heard electric music. It was fascinating and it was terrific. I loved it. So, I stayed. I was having a good time. Then he asked me to make his album cover and that was important for both of us.
AAJ: Please talk about the meaning of the photograph that adorns the Bring it All Back Home cover.
DK: That was my first album cover and he was very pleased with it. What I tried to do in my cover for Bring it All Back Home was to show that Bob Dylan was not a folk singer. He was a prince of music. He was a king of music. Dylan was an artist musician. On that picture, he doesn't have his guitar and he is sitting on the couch. He has a pussy cat and he has a beautiful woman behind him. He is a prince and this is what I wanted to show.
AAJ: So this is the symbolic meaning behind this photograph.
DK: Yes, the meaning here is this special person of music.
AAJ: How did the music from this period and onward make an impression on you? The music that you witnessed him make during those studio sessions?
DK: I still like it and I still listen to it. Everybody does. He changed the music. He made new music and a lot of people were influenced by him. He was 23 years old, but he was quite brilliant when it came to music. And now we see what came to poetry and when it came to writing. He is very talented and it came out of him in every way. This made the work enjoyable and I photographed him for a year. The final session was at Forest Hills. Actually, the final session was later. I photographed him some after the Forest Hills, but I didn't include it. This was the main point and the main point was this one year. It's interesting is that soon he is doing a concert at Forest Hills again. It's 51 years later, but my pictures are still being used. My pictures are still the ones that a lot of people know Bob Dylan by.
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