This New York Gallery Is Featuring Early Images Of A Young Bob Dylan

In 1961, an independent photographer got a call from Columbia Records asking him to follow one of their newest recruits, a young folk singer who was "a bit unusual."

While the photographer, Ted Russell, wasn't a huge fan of the music, he immediately felt "something promising" about him and agreed to take photos of the singer and document him in concert a few days later.

Une pause pendant l'écriture, 1964. (©Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Taking a break from writing, 1964. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

The 20-year-old artist who was "a bit unusual" was none other than Bob Dylan, and even though Ted Russell never ended up falling under the spell of Dylan's music, that didn't stop him from taking spectacularly intimate portraits of the singer in the 1960s.

The New York Times reports that Ted Russell was called upon again in 1963 and 1964 to photograph Dylan for Life magazine.

The black-and-white images taken in 1961 were kept more or less confidential for over thirty years, until the Sygma photo agency finally released them. Today, the images are published in a book (by Rizzoli) and are hanging in the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York as part of the "Ted Russell: Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964" show through June 3rd.

20 years old and almost famous

The photos retrace the early stages of the Minnesota folk legend's career as he played small venues in New York, slowly making a name for himself.

The most striking of Russell's images are some of the earliest: Dylan in his Greenwich Village apartment, next to his girlfriend Suze Rotolo, or alone at his writing desk, preparing for a concert.

The photographer manages to make us feel like we are intimate friends with the composer. According to Russell, the intimate feel of the images is because "in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson" he acted like a fly on the wall, a simple observer.

In an interview with the New York Times, he says he never really got to know Dylan:

"I want to be an observer, not a participant. I told them to pretend I'm not here, just ignore me, and that's exactly what they did. So there was virtually no conversation. [...]

My job was to keep my mouth shut and my eyes open, which is what I did. So I can't tell you anything about him, really. If you gave me a million dollars right now, I couldn't remember one word that was between us."

Fifty years later, and now that Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature, it's touching to see these images of a young, innocent man who hasn't yet tasted fame.

Dylan à son bureau, 1964. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan at his desk, 1964. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

La lumière du jour traverse la fenêtre, 1964. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Daylight through the window, 1964. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Janvier 1962, New York, Bob Dylan dans son appartement situé à Greenwich Village. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

January 1962, New York, Bob Dylan in his apartment in Greenwich Village.
Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Les mains dans les poches, 1961. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Hands in his pockets, 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

"Complètement 4e rue" (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

"Positively 4th Street" (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

En train d'écouter de la musique sur le tourne-disque. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Listening to records, 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Bob Dylan et Mark Spoelstra dans la cave de Gerde's Folk City, à Greenwich Village, 1961. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Bob Dylan & Mark Spoelstra in the basement at Gerde's Folk City, in Greenwich Village, 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Prêt à monter sur la scène de Gerde's Folk City, 1961. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Ready to go on stage at Gerde's Folk City, 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan sur la scène de Gerde's Folk Fest, 1961.(© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan on stage at Gerde's Folk City, 1961.(© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

"House of the rising sun", 1961. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

"House of the Rising Sun," 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan et Suze Rotolo, 1961. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan & Suze Rotolo, 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

"Home, sweet home", 1961. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

"Home Sweet Home," 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan et James Baldwin, 1963. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan & James Baldwin, 1963. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan devant sa machine à écrire, 1964.(© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Dylan at his typewriter, 1964. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

Avec sa casquette de pêcheur sur la tête. (© Collection Ted Russell/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

With his fisherman's hat, 1961. (© Ted Russell Collection/Polaris/Steven Kasher Gallery)

The "Ted Russell: Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964" show is up at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York until June 3, 2017. 

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