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Vanity Fair: The Photographer Who Captured Bob Dylan’s Electric Transition

The sheer magnetism of Bob Dylan, the brooding centerpiece of a changing musical vanguard, is visible on the covers of two of his most groundbreaking albums, 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. They capture a fiery, defiant Dylan—the Dylan of the dangling cigarette, the Wayfarers, at the moment of transition between folkie hero and electrified renegade.

The man who photographed both album covers captured this Dylan more artfully—and more prolifically—than anyone else. Daniel Kramer spent more than a year photographing the performer, enjoying unfettered access in private, on tour, and onstage. To mark Dylan’s 75th birthday on May 24, Taschen will release Bob Dylan: A Year and a Day ($700), a stunning collector’s compendium of Kramer’s photographs from their time together.

Originally published in 1967, with the encouragement of renowned Life photographer W. Eugene Smith, Kramer’s Dylan portfolio helped launch a career that has seen him shoot instantly recognizable portraits of figures like Norman Mailer, Ronald Reagan, and Harry Truman. His work has appeared in Time, Life, and Rolling Stone, and his close-up portrait of Dylan’s face, which appears on the book’s cover, is in the permanent collection of the Whitney.

In 1964, when he was just starting out on his own after working with Allan Arbus and Philippe Halsman, Kramer saw Dylan perform, on the Steve Allen show and thought, “This guy, he’s talented, interesting . . . I thought I might as well photograph someone who interests me personally.” For much of the next year he hounded Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager, until, finally, he received an invitation to Woodstock. Photographer and subject hit it off, and their initial session led to a year and a day’s worth of photographs.

When, after seeing his initial portraits, Dylan invited Kramer on the road to take the photographs that make up this extraordinary collection, he knew he must take him up on it: “A good photographer, a good writer, a good historian always says yes. So I said yes.”

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