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March 16, 2023

Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” Album Cover Was Blurry Because the Photographer Was Cold

Jerry Schatzberg, the photographer behind the iconic image used for Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde artwork, has attempted to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the cover. Dylan released his seventh studio album Blonde On Blonde in 1966, with its front sleeve showing a blurred image of the singer-songwriter against a brick wall background. Speaking to rock critic Bob Egan, Schatzberg claimed that the blurriness of the image wasn’t intentional but was instead due to him shivering from the cold weather.

“It was pretty cold out,” Schatzberg said. “I know all the critics, everybody said ‘Oh, they were trying to do a drug shot.’ It’s not true. It was February, [Dylan] was wearing just that jacket, and I was wearing something similar, and the two of us were really cold.”

When the photos were developed, Schatzberg saw that 4-5 of them were a bit blurred. “I liked them a lot, but I figured the record company would never use a blurred picture in those days,” he said. “[But] when Bob saw them, he immediately went to that one and said, ‘That’s the one I like. Send that.’ And that was great. Because usually what Bobby wants, Bobby gets.”

Columbia Records assented, and the blurred portrait of Dylan, tousle-haired and freezing in a suede jacket, became the unforgettable cover of his double-LP opus, Blonde On Blonde.

Research by rock historian Bob Egan suggests the location of the cover photo was at 375 West Street, at the extreme west of Greenwich Village. The original inside gatefold featured nine black-and-white photos, all taken by Schatzberg and selected for the sleeve by Dylan himself. A shot of actress Claudia Cardinale from Schatzberg’s portfolio was included but later withdrawn because it had been used without her authorization and Cardinale’s representatives threatened to sue, making the original record sleeve a collector’s item.

“For the inside cover of Blonde On Blonde, Dylan wanted a self-portrait of me that I had in my studio... He also wanted a photo of Claudia Cardinale that I had taken and that he saw in my studio to feature on the sleeve,” said Schatzberg. “After we’d done the first printing his agents, probably without informing her, refused to let her portrait to be used in that way. I supposed they didn’t want her being used to promote someone else. Anyway, the photo disappeared from the later printings and I think the original cover is now a collector’s item...” Claudia has since been reported as saying she never knew anything at the time about her photo being used for the sleeve!

Original 1966 LP – 9-photo inside layout with Claudia Cardinale and unknown whisperer.

Replacement 1968 LP - 7-photo inside layout, same on the left but Claudia and the whisperer have gone from the right!

Dylan included a self-portrait by Schatzberg as a credit to the photographer. The photos, for Gill, added up to “a shadowy glimpse of [Dylan’s] life, including an enigmatic posed shot of Dylan holding a small portrait of a woman in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other: they all contributed to the album’s air of reclusive yet sybaritic genius.”


  1. Nice to hear that the original cover is now a collector’s item..

  2. Nice post and please provide more information. Thanks for sharing.




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