Bob Dylan is a mercurial man of continual change. Yet 1964-65 stands alone as a time of true metamorphosis.
Dylan entered his chrysalis at the start of ‘64 a scruffy, caterpillar — all giggles, baggy jeans, and naïveté. By the summer of ‘65, he’d emerged an enigmatic butterfly: in dark sunglasses and suits. Unplugged, sneering, unapologetic.
“Bob became more aggressive. More certain of himself” that year, photographer Daniel Kramer said in our recent phone interview. “He became much more in charge of what was going on.”
For 366 days, Kramer was on the road with Dylan, documenting that pivotal year of change with total access, both on and off-stage.
A curation of Kramer’s photos comes to Boston next week.
“Don’t Think Twice: The Daniel Kramer Photographs of Bob Dylan, 1964-65″ opens at the Boch Center Wang Theatre’s Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame Jan. 18. Curated by the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music with the Museum Collective, the exhibition of some 51 photos includes some iconic shots.
I’ve long loved Kramer’s photos of Dylan playing chess, as well as his portrait of Dylan snickering into his palm, which perfectly captures the essence of the perpetual-schoolboy-jokester. (Kramer used the shot as the cover of his 1967 photo book: “Bob Dylan: A Year and a Day.”)
Other Kramer shots became album covers: “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Biograph,” and, notably, “Bringing It All Back Home,” which has long held near-mythic status among diehards attempting to decode its symbolism.
Kramer, now 90, spoke to the Globe by phone from his home in Manhattan.
Q. You first saw Dylan on “The Steve Allen Show” in 1964, when he played “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” What intrigued you?
A. His poetry. I hadn’t heard that kind of fresh poetry in years. When he was finished, I said: “I want to photograph him.” I called his office; they told me he wasn’t available. I called every day for almost six months. He became available. I went to Woodstock to do an hour-long shoot — I was there for six hours. You better be careful when you give me an hour.
Q. [laughs] Right.
A. We became friendly. We went to lunch, we played chess, we climbed some trees. Two weeks later, I brought the pictures up to his office. Bob said, “I’m going to Pennsylvania next week. Do you want to come?” Well, of course I wanted to come. What did he think I was doing for two weeks?
That started our year. Neither of us knew it. We didn’t plan it. We just liked to be together.
Q. What was Bob like off-stage, as a person?
A. He was very funny. He always had a good idea. If he didn’t have a good idea, he didn’t do anything. He’s really very special. He’s very much his own person.
Q. I’ve always loved your photo of Dylan studying the chess board. Was he playing you?
A. No, he was playing a neighbor. We were having lunch at a cafe in Woodstock. Right after lunch, they started playing chess. They did that all the time — he liked to play chess. That’s one of my favorite [photos]. Because that’s who he is. He thinks out his problems and he doesn’t make a move until he knows where he’s going.
Q. True. What are a few other favorites?
A. The photo from the cover of my book. It shows someone who knows he’s putting you on; he’s manipulating the situation. This is who he is. He’s saying if you can fake me out — lots of luck.
[In the pool hall photo] we were just hanging around a house that his manager owned. Bob was getting antsy. He said, “Let’s go to Kingston and shoot some pool.” So we went, four or five guys. We didn’t plan the picture.
Q. What’s the story behind the “Bringing It All Back Home” cover?
A. I’d never shot an album cover before. Bob asked if I could think of a story idea [for] a cover. I came up with star-trails in the sky. I put him in the middle of it, him and Sally. It was a very difficult shoot. It was hours accumulating the things to be in the picture. It was at his manager [Albert Grossman’s] house; Sally was his manager’s wife. She died [in 2021] and The New York Times ran that picture. She wanted to be a fashion model. She was using these opportunities to try to get herself seen.
Q. What about “Highway 61″?
A. We found the stoop. It was a place to sit down. Bob sat down and I thought it could be a cover — I knew he was trying to give me something. I asked my assistant for a camera and bing bing bing — done. Fifteen or 20 minutes. I think Bob lent himself to my ideas. I had to come up with these ideas pretty fast, day after day, and put it all together. Give Bob a stage to work on; give me a palette to draw from.
Q. How did your 366 days come to an end?
A. We just quieted down and stopped shooting. He went on to choose other photographers and other situations, which was fine with me. Because I had the quintessential Bob Dylan.
There is no exhibit end-date set at this time. 270 Tremont St. $20 adults; $12 kids. Details at www.folkamericanarootshalloffame.org/exhibits