We often get asked what we would choose if we had to pick one photograph out of all the pieces we have sold through the gallery over the years. You might think that it would be a difficult task. Actually it would be really easy. It’s this beautiful, evocative portrait of Bob Dylan and his (then) squeeze, Suze Rotolo, taken by Don Hunstein in Manhattan on a freezing cold afternoon in February 1963. This was one of the session photographs Don took for the cover of Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. It is not the actual cover shot – there are subtle differences with the actual cover image, which you can see for yourself if you compare it with your copy of the vinyl or CD.
There are so many reasons to love it. Little details; look at the way Dylans foot seems to come out of the picture: as one astute client put it, you can almost hear the crunch of the snow. Its wonderfully evocative of early sixties New York, a time, a place, being young, being close to someone. See how the components of the image come together: Bob and Suze curving towards each other trying to keep warm, Bob dead centre, the vanishing point disappearing off into the distance behind him, with the lines of the rooftops, the cars, and the VW van pulling your eyes towards the centre and heightening the sense of perspective. Look at the buildings with their copper-blue tone and the way they blend into the sky, seemingly scorched by the sun. Are we getting a bit carried away here? Hell no: it really is that good – it literally shimmers on the paper.
When you look at it, you can almost picture Don Hunstein, nearly 50 years ago (that long), crouching down low to make the shot, encouraging them to walk towards him. Don remembers being backed into a dead end, so traffic coming from behind wasnt a concern for him. As Don recalls: “I met Bob at his apartment, which was a third floor walk-up on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. The apartment was rather bleak, but I got a useful set of pictures out of it, including some with his girlfriend Suze. Dylan himself was by then already quite image conscious and self-assured, and he knew how to play to the camera. Then we decided to try the street, but the light was fading so quickly that I was able to shoot only one color roll and a few black and whites.”
We are lucky he went outside: if he had just called it a day and headed back uptown, we would not have this photograph.
We are firm believers that great photography can lift the spirits and this picture is our number one spirit lifter.
We hope you can find room for it.