I became friends with Bob in 1963 through his manager and my friend Albert Grossman. Albert asked me if I would collect his 1953 Silver Dawn Rolls Royce from the repair shop in Denver and drive it back to New York. Bob came along for the ride to keep me company. We flew from New York to Denver and we drove the Rolls back.
It was a long drive but a fun trip. We stopped off along the way whenever we felt like it. Bob wanted to check out an old-style saloon bar in Central City, where he used to play the piano for a stripper. Each time we stopped more people would recognise Bob; he was really amused by it all. One time we pulled over to listen when a song from Bob’s new album played on the radio.
We didn’t talk much unless there was something really to say. That’s how I am and it’s how Bob was too, so we got along fine. Over time we hung out more and understood each other. Albert asked me to photograph Bob and one of my pictures became the cover of his next album The Times They Are A-Changin’.
It was the easiest shoot I ever did, just a few frames and I immediately knew I had what I needed, an interesting and unusual angle, a moment with Bob. He always went along with whatever I wanted. I think that’s what makes my pictures different – he knew I wouldn’t use anything unless it was to his advantage.
In 1966 Life magazine commissioned me to cover Bob’s European Tour. When you make pictures, naturally you want to have them published but you want some mystery to it. Playing guitar on stage at the Albert Hall, there’s no mystery, but sitting in the seat, there is a mystery to that. You’re giving the public an opportunity to see Bob in a situation they would never ever get to see, even with a ticket.
I was in a unique position, given complete access and trust during a very special period. I saw Bob perform hundreds of times, travelled with him, often spent 24 hours a day with him. Sometimes there were thousands of people at a concert, other times it was just the two of us. I liked his work, Bob liked mine. He knew I would make him look interesting. He was comfortable with me and my cameras.
I don’t feel an awful lot should be explained, my photographs can speak for themselves. One of the most important things for me, and for Bob, was knowing when and when not to take a picture. I like pictures with feeling. Bob was very aware of the camera but it didn’t bother him, he knew what he wanted and he trusted me.
What often makes a piece of music great are the notes left out and it’s like that with photography too – knowing when to take a shot and when not to. I don’t really like stand-up portraits, there’s nothing there, no life, no feeling. I was much more interested in capturing real moments, and so was Bob.
Real Moments by Barry Feinstein