Daniel Kramer: Bob Dylan and W. Eugene Smith


Photograph by Daniel Kramer

Our previous blog entry yielded a great deal of feedback, much of it courtesy of the essential Dylan site Expecting Rain.  We are grateful.  We’re told the camera in question belonged to Daniel Kramer, who made the cover photograph of “Highway 61 Revisited” and who, lo and behold, will be visiting us at the Center for Documentary Studies in two weeks.  Ostensibly, Dan’s visit is so he can hear himself on Smith’s loft tapes talking with Smith about Dylan and photography in 1965. While in town he’s agreed to take part in a brown bag lunch event at CDS on Wednesday October 13 at noon.  More details about this event are below.

-Sam Stephenson

JAZZ LOFT BROWN BAG / Wednesday, October 13, Noon

Daniel Kramer: “Bob Dylan and W. Eugene Smith”

Moderated by Sam Stephenson, Jazz Loft Project Director

Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

DIRECTIONS: http://cds.aas.duke.edu/about/here.html

Daniel Kramer, a New York–based photographer and film director, has long been recognized for his portraits and picture stories in national and international magazines and books. Kramer’s photographs have been exhibited or collected by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the International Center of Photography, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Experience Music Project, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and numerous other national and international galleries.

Kramer’s 1967 book, Bob Dylan, the first major work about the performer-songwriter, was recently reprinted as Bob Dylan: A Portrait of the Artist’s Early Years (2001). His Dylan photographs were also used on the album covers for Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Biograph (1985) and Bringing It All Back Home (1965). Many of Kramer’s photographs of Dylan can also be seen in Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.

In August 1964, after months of phone calls and letters to Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, Kramer was given the opportunity to arrange a portrait sitting in Woodstock, New York, with the 23-year-old performer who was by then in the process of becoming an international star. The two men quickly developed a warm and trusting professional relationship that allowed for many extraordinary photographic sessions.

W. Eugene Smith consulted with Kramer about these photographs and recorded their conversations in Smith’s loft at 821 Sixth Avenue, in New York City, the focus of the extensive Jazz Loft Project based at the Center for Documentary Studies. (Read more: www.jazzloftproject.org)

The brown bag presentation will focus on Kramer’s work as an early Bob Dylan documentary photographer and on Kramer’s friendship and stories regarding Dylan and W. Eugene Smith. Kramer will show his photographs, and the presentation will feature recordings from the loft at 821 Sixth Avenue in 1965, with conversation about Dylan by Kramer and Smith.

Moderator Sam Stephenson, director of the Jazz Loft Project at CDS, has researched the life and work of photographer W. Eugene Smith since 1997 and has authored three books: Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project (W. W. Norton, 2001), W. Eugene Smith 55 (Phaidon Press, 2001), and The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue (Knopf, November 2009). His biography of Smith, Picture Paradise, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

NOTE: Bob Dylan’s current tour brings him to North Carolina during the week of this event. He will appear in Charlotte on October 14 and in Winston-Salem on October 16. See details: http://www.bobdylan.com/#/tour


  1. Where'sRenaldo? Said,

    September 30, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    Any chance this will be filmed or streamed for the benefit of persons who cannot attend in person?

  2. admin Said,

    September 30, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    Where’s Renaldo?, it’s not impossible, perhaps we can video the event and put it on the Jazz Loft Project site. We’ll look into it. Thanks for the query.

  3. wilfred paradise Said,

    October 13, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

    Sam – looking forward to the bob dylan shows in NC this week – curious if Daniel Kramer still has any contact w/ dylan? – am guessing since his photos appear to date back to the 60s, and none more recent, that he has not been able to keep in touch w/ him? Wilfred P

  4. admin Said,

    October 14, 2010 @ 7:55 am

    Mr. Paradise, I think the enterprise of His Bobness still uses Mr. Kramer’s photos for publicity and tour posters and perhaps in the Bootleg series liner notes, for example. So the two camps seem to be in regular touch. As for direct contact with His Bobness, I can’t answer that. There seem to be guys who have been playing in his band for years who haven’t really sustained a conversation with His Bobness in several years. It reminds me of Thelonious Monk. A longtime drummer of Monk’s told us he heard Monk talking more on Gene Smith’s loft tapes than he heard in four years of being in Monk’s band. In the era of meetings and feedback and action plans and emails and blinking voicemail lights and text messages, maybe this kind of silent operation is a frontier to explore. His Bobness and The Monkster certainly got something right. I should point out that in Gene Smith’s 1969 Aperture monograph, which he designed, Dylan and Monk face each other on opposite pages. When you close the book Monk’s cigarette bumbs into Dylan’s hair.

  5. Wheres Renaldo? Said,

    October 22, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    Just curious – were you able to video tape the event for inclusion on the Jazz Loft site? If not, will a transcript be available? Thanks!

  6. admin Said,

    October 22, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    Wheres Renaldo, yes, we video taped the event for Daniel Kramer. He took it with him and he’ll edit it into something we can put on the web. I’m not sure how long that will take, but it will happen. Meanwhile, early next week we’ll have a new blog entry about Daniel and his wife Arline’s visit, including photos by her. Thank you for the query.