Archival Pigment Print
Signed and Numbered by the artist
Edition of 50
11x14", 16x20" or 20x24"
April in Paris. This has always been a romantic notion, and for someone like me, who grew up having a love affair with Bob Dylan’s music, the offer to fly to Paris and shoot Bob Dylan for the cover of Rolling Stone, on my birthday, is about as romantic as it gets, photographically speaking. I almost couldn’t believe the assignment when I heard it over the phone. Jodi Peckman, the photography director of Rolling Stone magazine, had called my cell. I remember exactly where I was—in the parking lot of Paramount Pictures Hollywood, on my way to a meeting. In her typical understated way, she cut right to the chase. “ I need you to shoot Bob Dylan for me. It’s a cover, but before you say yes, it has to be in Paris.” That’s like saying, I need you to go surfing with me, but before you say yes, know that we have to go to Fiji.
The double-edged sword of being a photographer is that you often don’t know what you will be doing the next week, or even the next day. You can’t plan vacations, you end up rescheduling a lot of plans, and jobs often end up getting cancelled the day before the shoot for all kinds of reasons. And the phone—it is the starting gun in the photographer’s life. I have always found it fascinating that with the career I chose, the phone can ring, and the most unexpected, unbelievable opportunity arises. I have picked up the phone and found out that I needed to travel to South Africa that day. I can be having the most mundane week, where seemingly nothing is happening in my life, and the phone rings and I am immediately thrust into planning a pitch for a film that will end up taking over the next year of my life.
Well, this call ranks up there with the best—I was going to meet one of my musical heroes, and photograph him for the cover of the magazine who’s very title was taken from a song he wrote. For someone who grew up reading the Rolling Stone interviews cover to cover, buying records based on the magazine’s recommendations, and studying the photography like a scientist, learning my craft from Annie Leibovitz’s iconic portraits of musicians, politicians, and actors, this was a dream job.
I decided to try to make the most straightforward, authentic picture of Dylan that I could. Who was I to present a concept to Bob Dylan? I would just get a location, invite him in, and photograph him, on film, for the allotted time. I found a great old empty apartment in the 8th arrondissement with original wood floors and molding. It seemed like a place where Arthur Rimbaud could have sat in front of the fire with a bottle of wine and a quill pen. Only one problem: it was a 4th floor walk up. When I showed Dylan’s manager the spot, he was very nervous about whether or not Bob would want to walk all that way up. I pleaded my case, describing the beautiful pictures I could make in this setting. He finally relented, once I made the promise that if Bob didn’t want to walk up, I would make a picture down in the lobby of the building on the first floor. Now, I had no intention of doing this, but figured this was a small concession, and that I would figure out a way to get Bob up to the 4th floor some way or another.
Like most situations where managers and publicists foresee a problem, the problem never materializes, and this held true: Bob walked right up the stairs, and seemed to be in a great mood. I started out with the cover, and made pictures until I was sure I had a strong image. Then I asked Bob if he would mind too terribly playing guitar in a shot. Bob grabbed a Gibson J45 and sat down in a chair, and began to strum. This is the picture you see here. I didn’t move a single light or change the situation at all. I just signaled to the crew to be quiet, and for the next 15 minutes, I quietly photographed the greatest songwriter of the 20th century playing guitar and singing in a Paris apartment. Happy birthday to me.
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