Photographs of Bob Dylan
The British Music Experience
12 November 2012 to
3 February 2013
In this notable exhibition, Daniel Kramer documents a period in music and social history when innocence was about to be lost. In the years 1964-5 Bob Dylan moved away from folk music towards rock and pop. As the story unfolds through pictures, we can witness the man turning from lone busker to superstar. Curated by the Los Angeles-based GRAMMY Museum, the exhibition features more than 50 of Kramer’s photographs from his time with Bob Dylan on tour during those years of change.
Kramer’s photographs paint the extraordinary and intimate story of the metamorphosis of folk singer into rock star. This photographic “backstage view” of the singer-songwriter — fragile, almost androgynous, with a determined look in his eyes – features key moments of Dylan’s musical career during one of the most dynamic periods in American history.
Kramer successfully captures the solitary nature of the man – as a craftsman and a performer. In shots such as ‘Dylan with Upturned Bar Stool’ taken at the Town Hall, Philadelphia (1964) we see the very lonely and intense musician, hard at work. Excluded from the light. At other times we see the craftsman Dylan. For example, he is pictured back stage with Robbie Robertson and Al Kooper at Forest Hills Stadium, comparing set lists. In the image you can clearly see his handwritten set lists. Dylan’s set includes ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ (C) ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ (G) and ‘Maggie’s Farm’ (D). The chords have been written in too.
The images are not always perfect, by today’s digital (and manipulated) standards. The famous Vaseline smeared photo that graces the cover of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ with Sally Grossman (showing Dylan casually flipping through a glossy story of Jean Harlow) is slightly out of focus, not at all crisp. The mistiness just adds a fragile, almost intangible charm to the piece. It really is like looking back through your own memories
In the set of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ recording sessions images (1965) Dylan’s face is often obscured by a huge recording microphone. It does not help that he is wearing sunglasses in the studio. These images suggest more about the difficult nature of the performer as a subject, rather than any inadequacies in the composition. In each image, the real ‘awkward’ Dylan shines through.
In another image, Dylan and Baez are posed by a ‘Protest Sign’. Baez holds three twiggy flowers. The sign boldly reads ‘‘Protest Against the Rising Tide of Conformity’. The image was used for ‘Mama You’ve Been On My Mind.’ At first glance, this perfectly describes everything that you know, or you need to know about Dylan. His love of protest. His way with words. His fight against conformity. It may have been, for Kramer, a split second opportunity – a chance to snap an image that truly defines our thoughts on Dylan – especially at this time of his career. He is about to leave behind his unplugged folk consciousness (and many of his most loyal fans) to embark on a new electric future.
The words ‘Protest Against the Rising Tide of Conformity’ ring true, and foretell the future of the artist. But as you read down the ‘Protest Sign’ in the photograph you realize that the true nature of the poster is one of commercial effort. It is actually a poster designed to sell London Booth’s Gin. It is a slice of corporate ‘Madman’ America. Dylan (and Kramer) use the image successfully by adjusting the true meaning according to their needs. They become an integral part of the of the big corporate advertising mechanism themselves. Cynical ? Maybe. But it is a sure sign (in both meanings) that, from that moment, Dylan was navigating a more commercial path.
This is an instructive and imperative photo exhibition. It will be of particular interest to all fans of Bob Dylan, or anyone who is interested in rock music photography. Highly recommended.
– © Neil_Mach November 2012 –
DANIEL KRAMER: PHOTOGRAPHS OF BOB DYLAN
Is on at the:
The British Music Experience
The O2 Bubble
12 November 2012 – 3 February 2013
Tickets can be purchased on line at: http://www.britishmusicexperience.com