In 1965, photographer Jerry Schatzberg, already well-established in
the field due to his fashion and portrait photography for various
publications, such as Vogue, Esquire and Life, listened to Bob
Dylan for the first time. He had been hearing about the singer for
close to three years; two friends were especially dogged and would
ask him every time they spoke if he had heard the music yet.
Finally, feeling obligated to them for their persistency, he
listened and understood immediately why Dylan was inspiring such
passionate excitement. Shortly thereafter, Schatzberg was
photographing a job in his studio and had some fortuitous company.
Famed music journalist Al Aronowitz and disc jockey Scott Ross were
discussing Dylan and a recent performance they had seen of his.
Half listening to their conversation, he volunteered that he'd like
to photograph the singer if given the chance. Dylan's new wife (one
of the friends mentioned above) called the following day and gave
him an open invitation to the studio where he was currently
recording 'Highway 61 Revisited'. Excited and curious, Schatzberg
set off the very next day for the studio, exactly six days after
the seminal Newport Folk Festival set where Dylan went electric and
was collectively booed. Schatzberg received a warm welcome from the
singer, who immediately sat him down to listen to what he had been
recording that day. Dylan gave him free rein of the studio once he
started shooting and the images that emerged from that day make
obvious the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere that was already
brewing between photographer and subject. Considering Dylan's
almost-universal dislike of journalists (and by extension
photographers), this was a completely unprecedented situation, one
that Schatzberg took seriously. That almost-instant trust and
rapport quickly grew into a friendship and they are part of the
reason Schatzberg's sittings with Dylan work so successfully and
are so important. Dylan is relaxed, he's funny, he takes the props
that the photographer gives him and has fun with them - he's
obviously not taking himself too seriously. Working and socialising
together, Schatzberg would eventually do nine more photo shoots
with Dylan from 1965-6, arguably the singer's most creative period,
and capture the (now) Nobel laureate during one of the most pivotal
moments in music history. Part of their uniqueness is their basic
broad range of intimate and public locations: music and photography
studios, live performances and street portraits. But more than
that, each session (including the one for possibly his greatest
album, 'Blonde on Blonde') says something different about Dylan,
the man and the musician, and manages to perfectly capture the many
facets of one of the most unique, complex and mysterious
individuals of all time.
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