Icons / October 2018

Bob Dylan Through the Lens of Jerry Schatzberg

A new book of photographs by esteemed photographer Jerry Schatzberg provides a rare and intimate glimpse into the many facets of Bob Dylan. Here, Schatzberg reflects on his images and the memories behind them… 

An image of Dylan from the same shoot for the Blonde on Blonde cover taken in the Meat Packing District of Manhattan. © Jerry Schatzberg. Courtesy of ACC Art Books

“All of it,” Jerry Schatzberg responds, when I ask him what he and his old friend Bob Dylan used to get up to together in their spare time. I don’t doubt it for a second. The illustrious photographer and filmmaker may be 91 years of age, but he is sharp as ever, recalling with fondness the years he spent hanging out with Dylan. This period of time has been immortalised in a new book, Dylan by Schatzberg, which presents a comprehensive selection of photographs and memories, published for the first time as a single subject monograph.

Schatzberg first met Dylan in 1965, after discovering his music at the urging of some friends. “I had two friends who kept asking me if I’d listened to Dylan and at the time I was quite busy and I’d heard the name but I just didn’t quite catch on to it,” he tells me. “They kept pursuing and finally I started to listen to him and I really was knocked out once I started to hear his music and his lyrics.” Not long after, Schatzberg was in his studio with music journalist Al Aronowitz and disc jockey Scott Ross, who were discussing a recent performance of Dylan’s. “I heard this and sort of out of the side of my mouth I said ‘Hey, next time you see him tell him I’d like to photograph him’”, recalls Jerry. “The next day I got a call from his wife who said ‘Bobby’s here, I heard you wanted to photograph him’.”

It was the beginning of a fortuitous relationship: Dylan - famously cautious of any press - opened up to Jerry and the pair became practically inseparable. Their friendship was easygoing and pressure-free and they made the most of New York’s exhilarating cultural scene together, attending dinners, concerts and club nights with friends. “It’s like any guys who meet and they can get along and some can’t get along,” he says. “He trusted me and I became part of the gang… Sometimes we were like school buddies and sometimes we were very serious about music, about people. We got to know a lot of people together, and it’s really too much to say. But forty years later I can remember what we talked about.”

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Aobh O'Brien-Moody

Editorial Assistant at The Rake