The Surrealist Photos of Bob Dylan by Daniel Kramer and Daniel Schatzberg

Paul Reiners

June 12, 2009

Daniel Kramer                                                                                     1965
Bringing It All Back Home
Album cover, 12 x 12 inches
Columbia Records, New York

Jerry Schatzberg                                                                          1965 or 66
Black and white photo
(probably) New York

I don't know who can take the most credit for the 1965--66 surrealistic photos of Bob Dylan by Daniel Kramer and Jerry Schatzberg, the photographers or the musician.  But I don't think they could have happened with the photographers alone.  Bob Dylan's head at the time was already filled to the brim with surrealism.  Compare this quote:
"Christopher Columbus should have set out to discover America with a boatload of madmen"
---André Breton
with the lyrics of "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream": 
(Perhaps Suze Rotolo had told him about Breton, but, perhaps not.)

Both of the photos above combine the Modern with the Ancient.  Of course, Bob Dylan is the Ancient.  (Listen to his ironically titled, somewhat recent, album Modern Times for details.)  In the Bringing It All Back Home album cover you have:  The Modern: A fallout shelter sign, an issue of Time magazine with Lyndon Johnson on the cover, a photo of Martin Luther King, a copy of Another Side of Bob Dylan.  The Ancient: Bob Dylan, a cat, and Sally Grossman (the woman in the red dress) (but all three of these, staring straight into the camera, are the same persona---the same wide cheekbones, androgyny, and full-on stare).  (And then there is the Lotte Lenya album of Kurt Weill songs which is neither Ancient nor Modern and both at the same time.)  But the Modern images are also images of the Ancient.  (Bob Dylan was too smart to put something topical on an album cover.)  Lyndon Johnson is no longer Modern, but neither is the Time magazine cover dated.  He's shown up time and time again in different guises on the cover of news weeklies since he was buried.  Communism and its 1950s/60s US signifier, fallout shelter signs, have been replaced with new bogeymen designed to deflect attention from the real problems at hand.  And Martin Luther King is now the Ancient Moses (as he also was at the time).

The Jerry Schatzberg photo shows (1) a pair of pliers and (2) an old portrait (3) being held by Bob Dylan, or (1) an umbrella and (2) a sewing machine (3) on an operating table.