Monday, July 19, 2010

Who Took This Photo of Bob Dylan?

In July of of 2010, I was commissioned to discover the name of the photographer - and, if possible locate the original photograph, of this photo of Bob Dylan. The photograph was used as the cover for a mono EP - CBS EP 6270 (France) released in March, 1966.

A larger, digitally remastered version of the photo with titling removed was used as an insert for a 1993 bootleg titled, "Squaring the Circle."

Taken July 25, 1965 at Newport?

Based on contemporary images, I thought the photo was probably taken on the afternoon of July 25, 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. There are several other photos of Dylan wearing the same green shirt with white polka-dots that afternoon. Al Kooper wore the same (or a similar) shirt that evening during the famous "electric" concert.

While several people I contacted opined that the photo used on the EP was colorized, there were several contemporary reports noting that the infamous polka-dot shirt was indeed green. Al Kooper confirmed that the shirt in question was in fact green, although he refused to elaborate on why Dylan was wearing it in the afternoon and Kooper wore it in in the evening. I had one person who is familiar with pre-Photoshop colorization take a look at it, and given that he was only examining a scan, he was of the opinion that it had not been colorized, but was an actual color photo

It appeared that the photo was posed (Dylan is holding two walkie-talkies and staring straight at the photographer), which indicated that he knew - or at least was comfortable with - the person taking the shot. Almost all other photos of him taken during that day were spontaneously captured and taken from several yards away.


 What I Discovered

I knew that the album cover appears in the Getty Image Bank site and the photographer is mistakenly credited as the "Blank Archives." I talked to archivist Mitch Blank and he didn''t know the identity of the photographer.

Bob Dylan's business office didn't know who took the photo.

I spoke to or corresponded with the following people (or their representatives) and they did not take the photo nor had further information on it.

Dr. John Rudoff
Diana Davies
Bob Gruen
Barry Feinstein
Jonathan Taplin
Al Kooper
Dick Waterman

I wasn't able to get a definitive response from photographer David Gahr's estate.  While Gahr was taking photos during the afternoon sound check, I couldn't find any evidence that he was shooting in color that day. A review of the known David Gahr photos from Newport 1965 indicated that this photo is not in the Gahr "style" and I felt confident of eliminating him as a possibility.

I spoken to an archivist at the Smithsonian who had collated all known photos of Dylan in their collection. She related that the Smithsonian did not have the photo nor did she any information about it.

The Mystery Solved

After publicizing this site on several Dylan-related news sites and forums, a collector sent me a scan of the EP's back cover, which credited the photo to a "Bernard Gidel." A Google Search uncovered M. Gidel's contact information and after a short time, I received the following email from him...

(I should note, M. Gidel's email was in French and my French is a bit rusty, so some of the syntax is a bit off).

"...Yes. I am the author of the photo that shows the beautiful green shirt with white dots of Bob Dylan. This photo is a slide (Kodachrome color slide) and was used for the cover of a 45 rpm record (EP) in France. It seems to me that at the time the USA did not use photo cover sleeves.

With my friend Louis Skorecki, we had been sent by a large press organization to observe what was most modern in the U.S. in 1965. We were very young and happy to meet so many artists and creative innovators.

We contacted Albert Grossman, who trusted us (because we were young and French?) And we obtained accreditation for the Newport Folk Festival. He also allowed us to attend a recording session for the album "Highway 61 Revisited", in which Bob Dylan questioned us about the state of French music. He seemed particularly interested in Francoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan, two attractive singers then in vogue in France: ...

Without being intimates of Bob Dylan, we were accepted by his team and I could photograph without restriction. In Newport, the photo with the green shirt was taken just before he lent me his room to make a telephone call.

At the evening concert, Dylan was wearing a red shirt and a black leather jacket. I also took color photos of that and one of those photos was used for another EP also released in France..."

M. Gidel went on to note that he had turned over all of negatives of Dylan over to CBS France, being as he writes, "...very young" and simply happy that they were interested in using his work.  The second photograph he mentions was also used as the cover for another French EP.  I contacted Sony France, which now controls the CBS France archives but, unfortunately all the photos and negatives had long ago disappeared from their archives.

Fred Bals



  1. Bobby Neuwirth. Keep the money,

  2. have you considered the possibility it's a colorized bw photo? in this case it could be Gahr's.

  3. Maybe Ed Grazda?

  4. and what is the background??

  5. There are a few telltale signs that it is in fact a colorized B&W photo. I'd be shocked if it were a true color image, personally.