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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bob Dylan Knows How to Captivate the Camera

Bob Dylan and his fiancée at the time, Suze Rotolo, sat for the photograph that would be used for the cover of his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” on a chilly day in New York City in February 1963. In her narrative, Ms. Rotolo said that he had given careful consideration to the rumpled clothing he wore. The ensemble included one of his most cherished items: a suede jacket in a tan colour.

The artist was able to pull off the impressive feat of creating an enticing public image for himself during the picture shoot that took place on that particular day, all while giving the idea that he didn’t care all that much about how he came across to the audience. The photographs that are a part of the latest advertising campaign for the fashion brand Celine Homme showcase his brilliance as a photographic subject once again, despite the fact that it has been sixty years since he first displayed it.

Early Dylan fans experienced a mesmerising trance as a result of the iconic “Freewheelin'” image that was taken by Don Hunstein. A historian named Sean Wilentz, who was a teenager at the time the album was released, described it as “a image that, with its hip sexuality, was more stimulating than anything I’d seen in furtive schoolboy editions of Playboy,” in his book titled “Bob Dylan in America,” which was published in 2010.

Mr. Dylan clearly realised the significance of that picture. According to one of his earliest biographers, Anthony Scaduto, when Mr. Dylan gave out advance copies of the record jacket to pals in the spring of 1963, he stated, “The cover’s the most essential element of the album.”

Around the same year, Mr. Dylan sat for a photograph taken by Richard Avedon. He was dressed in a checkered shirt and well-worn pants, and he was holding a battered guitar case as a prop as he stood not too far from the East River. He was staring into the lens of the camera while wearing a half-smile that was difficult to decipher. In 2014, a gelatin silver print of the photograph fetched a price of $62,500 when it was auctioned off.

1965 saw a significantly different Mr. Dylan was photographed by Mr. Avedon for Harper’s Bazaar as he was standing on the wet sidewalk of Fifth Avenue beside Central Park. The singer had grown out her hair into a wild style and adopted an androgynous appearance. She wore a black belted cloak and pointed boots. It was clear from the dark rings that formed under his eyes that he was no longer the fresh-faced newcomer that he once was.

Jerry Schatzberg, a film director and photographer, found him to be an eager subject. It was Schatzberg’s blurry shot of a passionate Bob Dylan that was used for the cover of the album “Blonde on Blonde,” which was released in 1966. The book has more than 250 pages. According to what Mr. Schatzberg says in the book, all you have to do is aim the camera at him for things to take place.

Hedi Slimane, the creative director of the Celine brand, is responsible for the photography of the grownup Dylan for the company’s advertising campaign. Mr. Slimane, who previously in his career developed collections for Yves Saint Laurent and Dior Homme, spent nearly a year focused on photography before assuming the role he is now holding (which he started in 2018). His photographs are often severe and black-and-white, and musicians are among his favourite subjects to photograph. Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, Joni Mitchell, Lady Gaga, Iggy Pop, Keith Richards, and Jack White are among the other musicians who have posed for him. Amy Winehouse was also among those who posed for him.

Mr. Dylan has obviously had no qualms about donating his image and songs to advertising for Apple, Pepsi, Cadillac, Airbnb, IBM, and a number of other businesses. This is despite the fact that he hails from a period when artists risked being dubbed sellouts for promoting things. In 2004, he featured in a 30-second television commercial for Victoria’s Secret with the model Adriana Lima. This performance is perhaps the one that will stick in people’s memories the most. It appeared like he was making good on a statement he made at a press conference in 1965 when he made that appearance.

Throughout the month of December, Mr. Slimane travelled to Los Angeles to shoot Mr. Dylan. The Nobel laureate, who is 81 years old, may be seen playing an acoustic guitar in one of the portraits. In another scene, he is seen playing an electric Gibson guitar. Those who have seen him perform on his recent concert tours will recall that the sight of him playing such instruments was notable. As of late, the piano or organ has been his primary instrument of choice.

In the same way that Mr. Avedon’s, Mr. Hunstein’s, and Mr. Schatzberg’s photographs from the 1960s did, Mr. Slimane’s photos enable Mr. Dylan to maintain the mysterious character that is intrinsic to his persona. The fact that he is wearing a leather jacket by Celine that shimmers in the light, that dark sunglasses are covering his eyes, and that his demeanour is unreadable all contribute to the impression that he is not divulging any information. The one thing about him that can’t be hidden is how comfortable he is in front of a camera.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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