By Amalia P. Spagnolo
Duluth-born and Hibbing-raised Bob Dylan has traveled musical and cultural byways in the United States and all over the world. Called “the American troubadour,” he is hailed by some as the poet laureate of the 20th century. In time for Dylan’s 74th birthday, rarely viewed images of the international music icon arrive in Northern Minnesota — mere blocks from Bobby Zimmerman’s boyhood home.
The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles and the City of Hibbing present “Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan,” a pictorial exploration of Dylan’s breakthrough year (1964-1965). The exhibit is open for viewing 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Friday and Saturday through Aug. 23 at the Paulucci Space Theater in Hibbing (times may vary during the Hibbing All-Class Reunion, July 5 –13). Admission is free. A gift from Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, the exhibit appears in celebration of Dylan Days and Hibbing High School’s 2014 All-Class Reunion. The Paulucci Space Theatre is located on the campus of Hibbing Community College (HCC), at 1502 East 23rd Street, Hibbing.
Photographer/film director Kramer’s work is known worldwide in documentaries, major national and international books and magazines, and on album covers. His subjects include artists, authors, musicians, athletes, and political and business figures. Kramer’s photographs are widely collected and exhibited. Brooklyn-born, he and his wife and collaborator Arline Cunningham Kramer reside in New York City.
In his GRAMMY Museum interview, Kramer admitted he hadn’t heard of Dylan until he turned on the TV to watch a new singer on “The Steve Allen Show.” It was Feb. 25, 1964.
“I saw this guy — young, alone, a guitar — and he was singing ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,’” Kramer recalled. “It was riveting.”
A young photographer at the time, Kramer was developing a portfolio and taking photographs for various magazines and assignments. Interested in new photo subjects, he thought Dylan would be fascinating. He asked and was politely — and repeatedly — told “No thank-you.”
Kramer was hooked. Kramer explained, “Since I was turned down, it was two things: I’d like to photograph this guy and I want to photograph this guy.” After seven months of calling and writing Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman, persistence paid off. Catching Grossman off-guard, Kramer received a “yes” and an invitation to spend an hour with Dylan in Woodstock, NY. He found himself shooting photos of the burgeoning artist over the next year.
Kramer’s photographs depict Dylan’s rapid rise from obscure folk artist to renowned cultural icon. Rare images of the famously private singer/songwriter document unguarded moments with friends, as well as backstage glimpses of the “Bringing It All Back Home” recording sessions and the controversial “going-electric” concert at Forest Hills Stadium.
GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli is a lifelong Dylan fan. He described the genesis of “Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan.” A former music journalist, he was also curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
“I always wanted to do a Bob Dylan exhibit,” Santelli told the opening night audience at the HCC auditorium (adjacent to the Paulucci Space Theatre exhibit site). “It had never been done before.”
A child of the ‘60s, he admired Dylan as “immensely important in many ways.” During his tenures in Cleveland and Seattle, Santelli continually requested permission for a Dylan display.
Eventually, Santelli received approval to create an exhibition mirroring Martin Scorcese’s highly acclaimed 2005 Bob Dylan documentary film “No Direction Home,” featuring Daniel Kramer’s iconic images. Thanking local collectors for contributions of Dylan memorabilia for the exhibit, he acknowledged in particular the now-shuttered restaurant named in honor of Dylan’s original name. “We had artifacts and photographs that we brought back from Hibbing and Zimmy’s,” Santelli said. “It showed a part of Bob (people hadn’t seen before).”
He noted, “That exhibit traveled all over and was a great success for us. It established a relationship between Dan and (me) because people loved the photographs.”
When the Music Museum of Paris asked the GRAMMY Museum to reproduce the exhibit (“Dylan is huge in Europe”), Dylan’s representatives agreed to the project. Santelli recalled, “We decided to build it around the photographs of Dan Kramer.” He noted Hibbing’s representation in Paris, adding, “Many of the photographs you have on the wall here in Hibbing were in Paris.”
“A big hit,” the exhibition moved to Great Britain in 2012 for a half-year residence at the London Music Experience. Returning to the United States, it was reconfigured to become a traveling exhibit and headed directly to Northern Minnesota.
He said, “The GRAMMY Museum (is) really excited we could come here, be a part of Dylan Days and bring Bob home in a way that most cities don’t get to do.” In the rock and roll world, if Hibbing is mentioned, Santelli noted, Bob Dylan comes to mind. “Your favorite son ranks very high — if not the top — as the most powerful man in popular culture and world arts, still a vibrant and vital artist. Something to be proud of, for sure.”
Santelli summarized, “As artists get older, they recognize their legacy begins in their hometown.” He added, “Clearly, Bob had no problem with us celebrating his Hibbing roots and Hibbing heritage in the exhibits we did. He appreciates where he comes from and that his hometown plays an important part in his career.”
For more information, log onto www.hibbing.mn.us and www.grammymuseum.org/on-display/traveling-exhibits/daniel-kramer-photographs-of-bob-dylan.