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Daniel Kramer: Bob Dylan, In Pictures

Nenad Georgievski By

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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.

AAJ: The photographs that were taken during this period of one year were published in a book back in 1967. How did this book come about?

DK: The first book had 140 photographs. This one has 208 photographs. Already, there is more information and a lot of pictures that I held back from the first book. We can see new scenes of Johnny Cash, we see new scenes of the TV station -a lot of new different facets of it. Also, the pictures are bigger. They are better reproduced and the writing is, I feel, more insightful that it explains more how I felt. I put myself more into the book. At the time I didn't. Now I feel I have a right to. I think I have earned the right of 50 years of my own work to make a photographic statement and to make a writing statement. I tried to show a little more of how I was thinking and how photographers work, the problems we have and we face. This relationship of the photographer and a subject. It's not too technical and I didn't go too deeply into it because it is not a book for one audience. It's a book for people who are interested in Bob Dylan and the music.

AAJ: It seems that the interest for this period of his career never wanes as it is constantly revisited through books and new releases. Last year, there was a big box set from the Bootleg series covering this period— The Cutting Edge and it features a lot of your photographs.

DK: Yes, about 40 of my pictures were used. When I made those pictures they began using them right away to show who he was, and they are still using some of my pictures even 50 years later to show who Bob Dylan was. It went around the world quickly and the people who were being introduced to his music were also introduced to my images of him. So, it came together.

AAJ: You were once quoted saying that "a photographer is a historian with a camera." Can you elaborate on that?

DK: It speaks for itself because I don't want to detract from writers and people who use the word because we all know this is very important. It's one of the basics of our civilization is that we have books and writing. But, imagine the world today if we did not have a camera or if we stopped at painting. Imagine if we did not have a way to make an actual reproduction and fix it so it could stay for 2-300 hundred years. We wouldn't know a lot of things. In my book, at the end, there is a picture of me photographing Bob in the mirror and facing that page I wrote that the first mirror was the water in which human beings looked into and saw who they were in the reflection. Without that, they wouldn't know who they were because they could only look out at other animals and other beings. Who were they in comparison with what else was there in the world? Suddenly, when he looked into the water, he saw his difference. He saw his individuality. Now we have the camera and that is the new water. The camera tells us who we are. You know who you are because you saw pictures of yourself. You know what is going on in the world because you see it on TV.

So, instantaneously, you know what happened in my country yesterday and I know what happened in the Middle East yesterday because of pictures. Because of that, we are both elevated in our thinking in our ability to understand the world. So, imagine the world if we didn't have a camera. We would really be different people. Not that we are so good right now, but I'm hoping that we are going be better someday. The point is, with the camera, we learn just like we learn from the written word. We learn who we are, and the more we learn who we are, the better we will be. We don't know enough yet who we are. A lot of people don't know who they are. They think they know. They don't know yet. I'm hoping that the world will turn out well.

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