Conducted by Editors of On the Tracks
Veteran filmmaker Jerry Schatzberg and aspiring model Sara Lowndes were friends long before she married Bob Dylan, and he remained a friend to both Bob and Sara during their years together. On the Tracks is emensely grateful to Mr. Schatzberg for sharing his memories, insights and photographs of those daysmost for the first time ever.
From the beginning Schatzberg saw something of himself in his friend Bobby: an introverted young artist willing to risk even his familial support system to attain artistic success. Unfortunately celebrity doesnt come with an instruction manual and each person must sort out for themseves how to handle it. Dylan has been criticized for his sometimes erratic reactions to the uncomfortable situations brought on by celebrity, for being arrogant with the press, for not keeping in touch, for gleaning and moving on. But it never bothered Schatzberg. He understood. You see, hes also a driven artist whose basic shyness has been misunderstood.
As filmmaker, friend (in possession of a host of unpublished personal photographs), and like-minded artist able to comprehend Dylans psyche, Schatzberg might seem the perfect candidate to make a documentary film about Robert Zimmermans struggles to become Bob Dylan and keep his sanity but On the Tracks wonders would a project like that interest him?
His answer: "A film about Bobby, no; with him, yes..."
How did you meet Bob Dylan and get the photographs that appear on the Bob Dylan Live 1966 album?
People kept telling me I should meet him. I knew Sara first, when she was Sara Lowndes. Sara was telling me about him. I remember being at her apartment overlooking the village and she would point out where Dylan was playing. I didnt know Dylan, or his music at that time. The other person that kept telling me about Dylan was Nico, from the Velvet Underground. Everywhere Id see her, whether in Paris or London or New York, Nico would mention Dylan, "You gotta see Dylan...you gotta hear Dylan." Finally I did and of course once I heard him, I loved him.
A couple years went by before I made contact with him though. I dont remember the occasion but Al Aronowitz and Scott Ross were at my studio and they were talking about Dylan. I said, "Next time you see him, tell him that I would really like to photograph him."
About two to three days later I get a call from Sara saying, "Bobby hears you want to photograph him."
I said, "Yeah, Id love to."
And she says, "Well, you know, its cool," and she told me where they were going to be recording.
I went in and met him, hes very shy. I was kinda shy too. I just sort of got myself in a discreet place and did what I could. I got photographs of him writing, singing, of him just relaxing, playing the piano.... I think I got some very interesting photographs.
Most of these photos are unpublished?
Yes, the majority of them are unpublished.
So when you had a desire to photograph him, it was not for a certain project?
No, no, it wasnt a project, yet. But once I saw him, I said I wanted something more... For me, I felt most anybody can go into the studio while theyre working, and get the same photographs. I wanted to get him in an environment that was special.
I thought Id take him into my studio, just he and I. I didnt particularly think of props [beforehand] but he would just love to pick up the things that I would use in some of my commercial work and hold them, and some of the photographs reflect that. Hed see things around the studio. He used a piece of sculpture, thats basically a cross, in a lot of the photographs. There was an ironing board that hed start to play with; a painting; there were books; just lots of things. He just loved to invent. I had a painting of a woman and he took a lit cigarette and put it by her mouth, as if she was smoking. Things like that. Those photographs were just wonderful, they were very unique and meaningful.
Matter of fact, Ive started blowing up one sheet of contacts that are...every one to me is a gem. I blow the whole sheet up to 30x40 or 20x24. Theyre spectacular.
A contact sheet would be rows of pictures on a page resembling an unrolled roll of film?
Yes. [I would also photograph] any of his friends that would come along, theyd get in the pictures whether it was Albert Grossman or David Blue. I dont know if I got Phil Ochs with him, but Phil Ochs would come along and theyd argue about something. (He laughs at the memory.)
Phil was always very critical. You know, he didnt think anything of telling Bobby that he thought a track was not very good, in the recording session. I think Bobby was very smart, he used to listen. He listened to Robbie Robertson and people that he respectedwhich is what you should do in a collaboration.
So I did the studio shots and it was after those that they asked me to do an album. The first album that I did was Blonde on Blonde. The gatefold cover is a double shot of him thats slightly out of focus.
It has had every sort of interpretation from it was an LSD trip interpretation to a double exposure... But actually it was that we were outside, it was very cold and we were shaking. (He laughs.) Both of us! Thats really what it was, and thats how it turned out.
Bobby picked the interior photographs. That albums obviously a double cover inside tooand he picked from photographs that I had taken of him and photographs that he saw around the studio...a photograph of Claudia Cartinelli and a sort of a self-portrait of myself. Basically that photo was my credit because I dont have my name on the album. My credit comes from the picture.
None of the pictures are captioned... So thats you on the right, in the lower-middle of the original gate-fold cover. And with Dylan in the two uppermost-left photos?
The girl whispering in Dylans ear?
I dont recall [maybe a fan, but the pretty girl biting her lip is Claudia Cartinelli.]
But somewhere down the line Claudias people complained that no clearance was gotten and all that nonsense. It was a beautiful photograph of her, but in the next run Columbia had to take the picture of Claudia out so thats [why the album jackets are different].
What other album covers did you do?
I didnt do any more again until the Bob Dylan Live 1966. However, the Dylans and I sort of became friendly after I photographed him. We went out socially. I was a fashion photographer and I would host big parties at my studio. Dylan and Sara and his gang, theyd show up at the parties for a while. I also was part-owner in a couple of discotheques at different times and he used to hang out at them. I used to go around with him to some of the other discotheques that were happening in New York.
Is this with camera or as buddies?
No, just us. Although I got some casual photographs of him that I took at my place.
Did you ever go to Europe to photograph him?
I saw him in Europe but I didnt photograph him there.
Did you see the Manchester show that is on the Live 1966 release?
No, I didnt see that show. It was just after. I also missed the show in France, when they booed him because he spent about an hour tuning his guitar! I caught up to him in London, where I was doing some other work.
I kept in contact with Albert Grossman and found out where they would be. Then I showed up in London at somebodys apartment. Everybody was sitting around on the floor and just having a great old time.
What was his feedback about the unfavorable reaction to his playing?
He was quite angry. I had seen him [angry about it] before, after the Forest Hills concert. Hed gone electric up in Newport and got booed thereso he decided he was gonna "show them."
He went to Forest Hills and got booed there. Afterwards we all hung out at Albert Grossmans apartment in Gramercy Park. Bobby was carrying on. He was really angry about it, you know? And he turned out to be right!
I think artists have the right to go in whatever direction they want to go and if it takes the people a while to catch up, thats the way it is. He knew what he was doing. But nobody likes to get booed.
The audience just had no patiencethey wanted that acoustic guitar and those few songs that they knew him by, and they werent going to hear anything else.
But to his credit, he just stuck with it. He was quite angry from what I remember... (He chuckles to himself.) But I wont quote you the expletives that I heard!
How did your photographs get on the Bob Dylan Live 66 CD, what transpired?
I dont know where Sony had seen them, it may have come from the Dylan camp, for all I know.
Someone there remembered that you had taken them?
I really dont know. And unless Bobby himself remembered about the photographsI dont know how they approached it to him, even. I just heard from my good friend Barry [Feinstein] one day that, "Were sharing an album."
You had taken photographs of Sara before Dylan, how heavy into modeling or how popular was she?
I dont think she was very heavy into it. She was trying. I think what I took were probably test shots, for her [modeling] book. I think she was married...ah, she had been married, to a photographer. And if Im not mistaken, her daughter, Maria was born already.
Do you know how Sara and Dylan met?
No. I dont recall at the moment.
Is she pretty shy also?
Shes shy, shes funny, shes got a great sense of humor.
I remember once Sara and I went out with an English friend, Terrence Donovan, a photographer. He was [physically] huge. He was a great character; hes my best buddy. At that time I used to travel around on a Vespa. He came over and we all went out together, the three of us on my Vespa. We were having a great time driving through New York until we were arrested (he laughs) for riding three on a Vespa!
Dylan has a son whos a filmmaker, Jesse.
I once photographed Jesse with Sarabeautiful photographshe was probably about a week old.
Have you ever met him as an adult, since youre both filmmakers?
No, I havent.
So youve lost touch with the family on a private level?
Yeah, Ive lost touch with them. Although Ive seen Bobby a couple of times socially since then, mostly out in California. I used to go out there to do my films all the time.
Sara called once when I got out there and asked, "Why dont we have dinner? Bobby would like to have dinner."
I said, "Great! Where do you want to go?"
She said, "Oh, anywhere."
And I knew of a new Moroccan placeit was sort of the place everyone was going toand I said, "Well I dont know, but would he want to go to a place like that?"
And she said, "Yeah, hell go." I couldnt imagine him going, from what I had heard of the place, but we made a reservation.
We went there and Bobby showed up and, you know, the first thing they do at the restaurant is wash your hands. He wouldnt put out his hands for them to wash. He just wouldnt do anything. And we sat there, and he just wouldnt really talk, either. He was very into himself. Now, I had a new wife and maybe that made him a little shy also.
What time period is this that youre talking about?
Somewhere in the mid-to-late 60s.
He was sullen.
Yes, he was, and he wasnt liking this restaurant. He wouldnt eat very much, if anything at all, cause its a place that you eat with your fingers. And he wasnt going to do it. Part way through the meal he got up, walked out, and then came back and said he was leaving. Then he went up and called a cab and left us there. So we took Sara home that night.
Was this normal behavior for him?
I think when hes uncomfortable, he just doesnt know how to really handle it. And you know, whenever anybody asks me what hes like, the one thing I can say, hes painfully shy, just painfully shy.
Thats interesting, maybe his shyness bothers him when he does TV work because hes a bit stiff, yet you mentioned that working with you he actually mugged for the camera.
Oh, yeah. Because I made it as comfortable for him as possible, which meant that it was just me and him. Bobby Neuwirth was around, but he felt very comfortable with Bobby. Hed even show off a little bit for Bobby and for whatever friends might be around.
The process, for him, it was almost like writing. The process of creating is the process of creating. Hed look around and see [what he could make use of]. If you think of his writing, its not run-of-the-mill or mainstream and he would do the same thing in my studio if he could. I can show you photographs of ways that we put together things that were really interesting with bizarre top hats, costumes and all that.
The one thing that was funny... Wed try to find other outfits and Id bring stuff down for him to try from my loft above my studio...hed look at them and try them and hed say, "Yeah, yeah, oh yeah," but in the end he wouldnt do it because it wasnt his idea. Hes his own person. And I always felt he was just shy, distressingly shy.
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