Before Dylan became camera-shy, Daniel Kramer captured his various moods. His 1964-65 photos are now on display in Hibbing.
HIBBING, Minn. – The familiar perma-scowl is missing from Bob Dylan’s face.
New York photographer Daniel Kramer was fortunate to capture the many faces of Dylan in 1964-65: the imp, the jokerman, Mr. Mischief, Mr. Happy Go Lucky, the brooder deep in thought, the innocent young man with dreams, the joyous lover, the focused songwriter, the intellectual, the poseur, the protester, the pool shark with laser concentration, the chess player plotting his moves, the bandleader with a purpose.
The fascinating exhibit “Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan” affords glimpses and insights into the many sides of Dylan’s personality. After showings in London and Paris, the exhibit, curated by the Grammy Museum, is having its U.S. premiere at Hibbing Community College in Dylan’s hometown. Many of the images appeared in a 1967 Kramer picture book and, of course, on the Dylan albums “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Biograph.”
In an interview via Skype at the exhibit opening last weekend, Kramer, 83, explained from New York City that he was intrigued by the power of Dylan’s lyrics after seeing him perform “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” on “The Steve Allen Show” in 1964. Not a music or showbiz photographer, Kramer tried to contact Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, to arrange a photo session. After six months of negotiating, Kramer went to visit Dylan at his home in Woodstock, N.Y., for a one-hour shoot. He stayed for five or six hours.
Kramer mentioned that he hadn’t seen Dylan perform, so the singer-songwriter invited the photographer to a concert in Philadelphia. Dylan and his road manager picked up Kramer at his New York City apartment. That trip was when he really got to know Dylan.
Thereafter, there were photo opportunities at concerts, in photo studios and even on the streets of New York when Dylan just wanted to have fun. There is one curious shot of Dylan, with musicians Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) and John Hammond Jr., standing on posh Fifth Avenue, trying to hail a cab behind a well-dressed older woman also seeking a taxi.
When Kramer was hanging out with Dylan, it was a pivotal period for the rising star. Not only did he transform from folk singer to rocker, but he transitioned romantically from folk singer Joan Baez to model Sara Lownds, whom he married in November 1965.
Baez is everywhere
Several shots in the exhibit capture Dylan and then-girlfriend Baez.
With glum faces, they pose in front of a poster that says “Protest Against the Rising Tide of Conformity.” It was an ad for a brand of booze in an airport.
There is a blurry shot of Baez, arms around Dylan, lifting him off the ground while he’s wearing the most cheerful smile ever seen on his face. There is a series of three photos of the two in a backstage dressing room, with an unseen fan handing a Dylan album through a curtain-covered window and Baez forging Dylan’s signature while he snickers approvingly. And nothing is more startling and goofy than the shot of Dylan ironing Baez’s hair.
When Johnny Cash stopped backstage at a Dylan show in New Brunswick, N.J., Kramer snapped the pals together, Cash with a menacing glare and Dylan with a devilish smile. Backstage at Forest Hills Stadium, where Dylan played his first electric concert under his own name, smoke is emerging from his nostrils as he reviews the set list with sidemen Robbie Robertson and Al Kooper.
Cigarettes are featured in 14 of the 53 photos in the exhibit. Sunglasses, long a Dylan habit, are shown in 16. Sometimes Dylan’s hair looks styled, sometimes it looks like bed-head. Most of the photos are candid or in performance, but 17 are posed.
Some of Kramer’s pictures were used for magazine stories (Saturday Evening Post, Look, Paris Match), ads, sheet music and album covers. One of the more famous is the meticulously staged shot for the cover of 1965’s “Bringing It All Back Home,” which featured Dylan surrounded by such things as a Time magazine with President Lyndon Johnson on the cover, a fallout shelter sign, a magazine ad for a Jean Harlow book and covers of albums by Robert Johnson, the Impressions, Lotte Lenya and Dylan himself.
“I made 10 exposures,” Kramer explained. “That [cover shot] was the only time all three subjects were looking at the lens.”
That was Dylan, Sally Grossman (wife of manager Albert) and a cat. The cat looks scared, Sally looks bored and Dylan looks like he’s discovered that scowl.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719