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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Saturday, October 23, 2010


Thanks to today's Desolation Row Information Service e-newsletter, I learn, albeit belately, that there's an exhibition of photographs by Don Hunstein on show at the Proud Gallery Chelsea in London till November 21st. The gallery's own rather quaint blurb runs like this:

Widely considered to be one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, Bob Dylan is an icon. This Autumn, Proud Chelsea presents ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’, a photographic portrait by legendary rock n’ roll photographer Don Hunstein, who worked closely with Dylan in the early 1960s whilst his star was in the ascent. The result is an intimate and touching body of work which includes the legendary ‘The Freewheelin’ (1963) album cover image which brought Dylan international fame and launched his career.

The exhibition includes images of Dylan recording ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ which is considered to be the best and most important of his albums including the tracks ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Desolation Row’; as well as images of Dylan rehearsing for concerts and in repose. Hunstein’s images capture the young Dylan and his intrepid spirit of counter-culture which resonated the world over. Working as a photographer for Columbia Records, Hunstein has photographed Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Simon & Garfunkel and, of course, Bob Dylan

Exclusively showing at Proud Chelsea, this exhibition of Hunstein’s work is a must see for Dylan fans and photography fans alike.

The Chelsea Gallery is at 161 King’s Road, London SW3 5XP. Opening times 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday. Admission free. Telephone 0207 349 0822 (+44 207 349 0822 from outside UK).

Don Hunstein, a straightforward and accessible man, has this brief entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Hunstein, Don [1928 - ]

Donald Robert Hunstein was born in St. Louis, Missouri on November 19, 1928, studied liberal arts at Washington University there, and then, fearful of army call-up to fight in Korea, enlisted in the US Air Force instead. His squadron was sent to England, and visiting Paris he discovered the work of Cartier-Bresson, which prompted his career in photography. Discharged in spring 1954, within months he moved to New York City, where he learnt the business as a Pagano studio gofer, after which work for another photographer led to a Columbia Records publicity department job in January 1956. So it came about that he was the staff photographer who took the cover shot for Bob Dylan and, more famously, the iconic cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This was taken after an amiable session, mostly on black and white film, in Dylan’s West 4th Street apartment with and without SUZE ROTOLO, arranged by publicist Billy James (who was also present), so as to build up Columbia’s stock of photos of an artist rapidly becoming ‘hot’. As the light was threatening to fade, Hunstein suggested trying some shots in the street, with happy results, taken on one roll of colour film on a Hasselblad. Hunstein is certain, despite other claims, that his back was to West 4th Street and Dylan’s apartment as he took the shot, and that Bob and Suze are walking down Cornelia Street.*

Don Hunstein took his last Dylan shots in 1965: lovely shots at the piano. He ran the photographic studio Columbia created in 1966, until it closed in 1982; after four years of corporate work for CBS he went freelance. He has not ‘gone digital’ and now, at 77, he is ‘somewhat more than semi-retired’.

[Source: Don Hunstein, phone calls from & to this writer 13 Mar 2006.]

* His recollection of which street it was has been widely challenged. I can't now recall whether anyone has proved him wrong beyond any inkling of doubt.


Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

It can't be Cornelia Street - it's just too narrow. Jones Street is the supposed location; I'm guessing it was taken near this spot, although some of the buildings have changed in the intervening years.

9:37 pm  

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