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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV showcases Bob Dylan photography collection

GVL/ Annabelle Robinson

A new photography display by Douglas R. Gilbert featuring images of musician Bob Dylan is being exhibited on the Lake Ontario Hall Wall Gallery on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus until Dec. 15. Following this, the exhibition will be moved to the Richard M. DeVos Center Wall Gallery on the Pew Campus to be on display from Jan. 5 to June 28, 2024.

The exhibition includes 27 photographs and proof sheets detailing the life of Dylan as a young musician. The photos capture a time when Dylan’s career was beginning to take form in the 1960s. 

The pictures were shot by Gilbert when embarking on an assignment for Look magazine in 1964. When Gilbert was only 21, Look magazine recruited him as a photojournalist. At that point in the magazine’s existence, he was the second youngest staff member employed.

According to the GVSU Art Gallery, Gilbert spent time photographing Dylan at his home and in Greenwich Village, New York. However, at the time, the photographs were denied publication as they were “too eccentric” for the magazine’s demographic.

Gilbert donated his life’s work of photographs to GVSU in 2018. Many of the unique and eclectic pieces donated had not been exhibited before. The importance of the photos are shown in the display of raw moments Gilbert was able to capture.

Prior to his passing in June 2023, Gilbert was interviewed for the GVSU Art Gallery’s YouTube channel, in which he discussed his interactions and experiences with Dylan. He mentioned one of Dylan’s earliest concerts, where a large crowd gathered on a small platform on which Dylan performed. Gilbert requested that the performance sequence be reenacted for a photography session. 

“We could stage one where we would set it all up like a concert. I could take some photographs. I want to make it look real,” said Gilbert in the GVSU Art Gallery interview. “He (Dylan) stopped and looked me right in the eye, about 12 inches away and said ‘nothing’s real man.’ He was a hard person to get close to. Yet that was what I needed– to get close to him.” 

Gilbert was faced with numerous obstacles along the way, but he managed to get around them. Doing so helped him focus on the fact that he was doing what he loved, especially with a growth mindset. 

The gallery display and experiences Gilbert had while photographing Dylan can inspire student photographers and artists. The work shows how perseverance and authenticity can be incorporated into any work and at any age.

Aspiring photographers can find inspiration from the stories behind Gilbert’s images. Gilbert’s website allows readers to view a selection of his images and  explanations of his photographic approach. 

Gilbert said “although the shutter may only open for a brief moment, that time was spent waiting for the perfect subject, perspective and lighting.” The work represents the pure intent of positioning everything in the frame to freeze time.

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