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Been Caught Freewheelin' 

It was a cold day in New York City’s Greenwich Village when Don Hunstein took one of the most iconic photos in rock ’n’ roll history.

Hunstein, a Columbia Records staff photographer for more than three decades, was assigned in the early 1960s to shoot photos of the then-relatively unknown singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Among the photos Hunstein, who currently lives in Sharon, Connecticut, took that day was one of Dylan, shoulders hunched against the wind, with girlfriend Suze Rotolo clinging to him for warmth as they walked near the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street. The photo became the cover of Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The 1963 album brought Dylan international fame and acclaim, and the photo became one of the most memorable images of the era.

The cover shot, along with about two dozen photos Hunstein took of Dylan during the musician’s early career, make up the “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” exhibit on display at The Moviehouse in Millerton through February 16. The show includes intimate images of a young Dylan relaxing at home, rehearsing for concerts, and recording his legendary album Highway 61 Revisited.

These days, DeeAnne, Hunstein’s wife of 45 years, handles press inquiries for her 83-year-old husband, who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. DeeAnne Hunstein said the photo for the Freewheelin’ album cover was taken in a spontaneous moment. “There was no art director involved. There was no one telling Don what to do,” she says. “Don just said ‘Well, walk up the street and come toward me.’ It was totally just happenstance that he got that picture. Light was failing and it was the end of the day.”

According to DeeAnne Hunstein, the weather was very cold the day of the shoot. “Dylan was wearing his suede jacket because he was too vain to put on a heavy coat,” she says. “Suze [Rotolo] told us later it was one of those days the chill went right through you.”

She adds that the photos in the exhibit provide a portrait of Dylan early in his life. Of the famous Freewheelin’ cover photo, she says, “It did convey that spirit of setting off in a cold, hard world but with determination.”

Don Hunstein grew up in St. Louis and became interested in photography while stationed in England with the Air Force. Inspired by a book of street photographs by Henri Cartier Bresson, Huntstein began taking photos around Europe to send back to his family. By the time he returned to the United States in 1954, his interest in photography had blossomed into a passion. Living in New York City, he landed an apprenticeship at a commercial photography studio before going to work at Columbia Records.

In addition to Dylan, Hunstein photographed many other musical luminaries during his tenure at Columbia, including Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Bernstein, Tony Bennett, and Thelonious Monk.

“Very few of the people that he ever worked with were difficult or gave him any problem,” DeeAnne Hunstein says. She added that that was partly because her husband had a friendly but professional manner and was never in awe of his subjects.

The “Freewheelin’” show was recently on display at a gallery in England. The owners of the Moviehouse, Carol and Robert Sadlon, decided to bring in the exhibit after they heard about it from the Hunsteins, who are regular patrons at the theater. “The photos are amazing and capture the spirit of an American icon at the beginning of his career,” Carol Sadlon says.

"The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," photographs by Don Huntstein of Dylan's early years at Columbia Records, will be on view through February 16 at the Moviehouse in Millerton. (518) 789-0022;
—Erik Ofgang
click to enlarge Bob Dylan in the studio recording The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1962. Don Hunstein's photos of the singer/songwriter will be exhibited through February 16 at the Moviehouse in Millerton.
  • Bob Dylan in the studio recording The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1962. Don Hunstein's photos of the singer/songwriter will be exhibited through February 16 at the Moviehouse in Millerton.

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