Circa 1970

I took the train from Grand Central Station up the Hudson River. I was on my way to meet up with John Cohen and discuss his pending exhibit at Icebox.


The ride on the train was interesting for me, at first you travel underground a lot like a subway and you emerge in the Bronx. Gradually nature takes over the landscape. I thought the river bluffs looked beautiful. I like train rides and they take me back in time.

John was at the train station and he gave me a ride in his station wagon back to Putnam Valley and on to his farm where he has lived for many years.

During my afternoon into evening stay I had a nice visit with John. He cooked me up food and we got to know each other. I enjoyed walking around John’s farmhouse, it is the kind  that I really like.  The house sits just off the paved road that winds its way through the valley alive with leafless aspens and hardwoods. You park near the stockpile of firewood. John said he does it to keep active. I thought to myself: You do this to keep warm. The barn red farmhouse is comfortable, filled with books and records. Built with several additions and heated with some wood stoves. He showed me his dark room. It was in a room that you have to climb a ladder up into it. The modest but comfortable darkroom showed signs that it is not used as often now as he had in the past but evidence of on going creativity was everywhere in every room.

John’s farm is one of the original homesteads in the area. On the road in we passed many fancy new homes. John said Putnam Valley is becoming a “Bedroom Community” for commuters that work in the city. This fact is out of sight and well disguised when you are walking around John’s place. He has several out buildings. Each one is made of old wood and painted with what I call Barn Red paint. We walked past a tiny building that looked like a miniature house.  John said he keeps his books in there. They must be extra books because I saw them in every room in the house. I think he said in the past it was a guesthouse or play house for his kids. His kids are all grown up now and John is a proud grandpa.

We headed to the barn, it was an up hill, and I followed John on a tiny footpath through the fresh white snow. You climb a few steps and enter the New England style barn. No cows or horses anymore because the farmer was replaced with an artist. John has a big room that he uses as his art studio. He has drawings and painting pinned up, filed away in boxes, neatly stacked and framed all over the room. John has been drawing and painting for years. His work is calming and thoughtful. He loves to paint and draw landscapes and he makes patterns and gesture brush strokes using organic colors.
In another part of the barn he has steel cases that hold his master reels of 16mm film.
John has made some extraordinary documentaries about artists, mountain villagers weaving alpaca down in Peru, southern folk musicians playing banjos & Hillbillies singing songs.

John exposed his first role of 16mm movie film the day he first photographed Bob Dylan. John told me they made up a skit to do for the camera.  Something like an old Vaudeville moving picture. The two of them were on John’s Greenwich Village rooftop above his loft. The b/w film starts with a 20 year old Bob Dylan dropping or jumping into camera view. Bob then proceeds to open his guitar case that is filled with hats. Bob appears amused as he tosses hats for the silent camera and John’s first roll of movie film.

John unlocked the cabinet and swung open the doors. It was filed with archival photo boxes each adorned with neat hand lettering.  Dozens of boxes, personal boxes, a personal history… Blue Grass, Beat Generation 1959, and 60’s festivals, Musicians, Joseph Albers, Peru Q’eros and Kentucky 1959. John pulled out some boxes and we looked through them.
Soon we began to talk about the show. He suggested that it might be a good idea to add some other images to the Young Bob show; he did not want people to get bored looking only at images of Bob Dylan. I was fascinated with this idea and we talked about showing friends, artists and poets.  The people who played an active roll in the Greenwich Village art scene. John’s images really captured the feeling of the art and music scene. This was the scene that Bob Dylan found himself in back in 1962. Music, art and poetry mixed together. What else do you need?
The pictures that we decide to show did not all happen in 1962. In fact, some took place several years before and others happened afterward. Some images did not even take place in the city, but they all relate, because John made them. They all contain history, a personal history via John Cohen but also a cultural history for many more of us. We found a gem in a box that John pulled out. A vintage print of Bob Dylan! It had been filmed for a movie; John could not remember what movie. It was obvious though because the print had a slip-sheet over it showing how the camera would zoom into Bob Dylan’s face. The image looked old and new at the same time. Years of hearing Bob Dylan songs flashed before me.
We left the barn and walked down another narrow path to the old chicken coop.  No chickens out their anymore-just snow and pealing paint. After a minute or so, I noticed a rusty front end of an old car. It was just the front point and the holes for the headlamps. Wow! I said and John looked at me with a smile. He picked up a hoop or metal wheel and looked at me just as I snapped his picture. I felt like I had seen this before. Then it came to me, like a slow train. This old car was in some of the color photographs that John took of Bob back in 1970. They were included in the Self Portrait album, and somehow I remembered this old rusty Chevy from his picture in the album. 
Here I stand in the February snow in 2006 and I remember a picture from an album I have not seen in years. This was long before I knew who John Cohen was or that he took the pictures. I asked John if he had any of those color pictures, the one with the car, and that I was hoping we could include some of them in the show.  I thought to myself, when I first saw and listened to that album, I was in 9th grade. I always loved Dylan’s music and felt remotely connected to him. I guess it was because I was born in Duluth and my dad, who also was named Howard, was born in Hibbing.  Then I thought of how I was only 7 when Bob and John took their first pictures together in 1962.

In 1970 I was in Junior High School and John and Bob where here in Putnam Valley having fun and playing with cameras, kids and chickens.  It was as if that old rusty car talked to me.

Howard M. Christopherson
May 9th, 2006

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Tail of the Talking Car


May 11th at Mayslacks Bar
in NE Minneapolis 7 – 10 PM.

Featuring John Cohen, Spider-John Koerner and Tony Glover, Paul Metsa, +

* Music Information *

May 13th, 2006
8 PM – Midnight

CLOSING November 4, 2006

Extended Hours on
Art-A-Whirl Weekend
May 19-20-21

May 24th Bob Dylan’s 65th
Birthday 8 - 10 PM at Icebox!

Keep Bob Forever Young! Celebrate Bob's 65th with us in the Icebox Gallery!
(Bob Dylan Date of Birth: May 24, 1941 Duluth MN.)

Bob Dylan First Thursdays!
B.D. Music Played Loud in the Gallery each First Thursday during the show.
5 – 9 PM Each First Thursday in the Arts district.
• June 1st
• July 6th
• August 3rd

Young Bob Closing Party
Icebox Gallery
Saturday, November 4
8 – 10 PM

Check Icebox website for additional events during the run of the exhibit.

Official Bob Dylan Website

Limited Edition Prints
Tail of the Talking Car
The Scene

The New Lost Times

John Cohen on KFAI Radio
John Cohen on Minnesota Public Radio