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Bob Dylan’s Start

Bob Dylan was only 19 when he arrived in New York City. He wanted to be a folk singer and songwriter like Carolyn Hester, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and others whose clear-voiced songs recalled American innocence and optimism. Yet within two years his nasal, whiny voice and symbolist lyrics would rally activists protesting racial segregation and the Vietnam War. He would even be onstage with Martin Luther King for the “I Have a Dream” speech. Dylan’s first album with Columbia Records, which signed him in 1961, was a flop. His second, 1963’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” was a smash. And its iconic cover photo — Dylan and then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, walking forward on a snow-covered Village street — was taken by Don Hunstein, long the main photographer for Columbia and its albums. Now a collection of Hunstein’s images of Dylan from 1961 through 1963 is on display upstairs in The Moviehouse Gallery in Millerton, NY. There are the famous pictures of Dylan and his guitar; Dylan in a tattered chair in his Village walk-up apartment; Dylan, taken from behind, rehearsing in an empty Carnegie Hall for his sold-out, October 1963 concert. Hunstein’s images are straightforward, unadorned. They recall a time when it was the music that mattered, not bling nor shenanigans; and an artist who has influenced — more than any other, I would argue — the course of American popular and rock music ever since. Hunstein’s photographs of Bob Dylan will be exhibited in The Moviehouse Gallery through Feb. 16.

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