John Cohen's Early Photographs of Bob Dylan
powerHouse Books, Hardcover, 9781576871997, 72pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2003
In 1962, a young John Cohen and the young songwriter Bob Dylan went to Cohen's East Village loft and rooftop for a few hours to make some photos in "a moment of invention…without planning, and with the freedom that comes from uncertainty," recalls Cohen. The never-before-published, black-and-white photographs in Young Bob: John Cohen's Early Photographs of Bob Dylan reveal the soon-to-be-legendary musician on the cusp of fame, just before the release of his revolutionary self-titled first album. "These are pictures from a more innocent time at the beginning of Bob Dylan's career," Cohen recalled. "his is what he might have looked like when he first arrived in New York…. the making of these photographs was quite naïve. We weren't into creating a persona for Bob. I was more interested in documenting what was before the camera, and what I was seeing wasn't so clear.
The session was just a free-flowing pursuit of picture making and taking poses. We didn't know what he was going to look like." To complement the images, Cohen has painstakingly transcribed and edited forgotten radio interviews that aired between 1961 and 1963. The interviews conjure up voices from the past, where you can hear a youthful Dylan joking and quipping with WBAI's Cynthia Gooding, WNYC's Oscar Brand, and WFMT's Studs Terkel. With a flourish of color, Cohen's recently rediscovered Ektachromes shot in 1970 for the album "Self Portrait" appear at the end of Young Bob.
These finely constructed "self portraits," art directed by Dylan himself, offer a contrast to the uninhibited loft and rooftop photos and serve as a reminder that just a few years later the famed persona of Dylan had truly been formed and that the young Bob we caught a glimpse of on Cohen's rooftop was now and forever gone.