Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Frank Stefanko - Seeing Springsteen

The Boss photographer

Frank Stefanko - Seeing Springsteen

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Of course, it's all about the music.

But in reading the reviews and previews of the Springsteen exhibit at the Constitution Center that opened last weekend, I noticed how much a part photos play in, "From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen."

Various memorabilia is cited as being "in the famous photo," or "seen on the album cover." Exhibit visitors don't remember that Time and Newsweek did stories on Springsteen the same week in the fall of 1975 - but it is likely they do remember seeing the two Boss cover photos side by side on the newsstand.

Nobody talks about Bruce's Fender guitars without mentioning the "Born to Run" album cover - Springsteen and Clarence Clemons photographed by Eric Meola...

 

 

...or the rear of his faded bluejeans on the "Born in the USA" cover, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

 

 

And in the Philadelphia version of the NCC Springsteen show - coming from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - it's another photograph - by Frank Stefanko - that greets visitors first entering the lobby, behind the very same 1960 Corvette, brought right after the success of "Born to Run," like the other memorabilia - "in the picture."

The photo was made outside Frank's house at the time, during one of Bruce's half dozen trips to Haddonfield, NJ in 1978.

In Frank’s book, ”Days of Hopes and Dreams” the photographer says “Bruce seemed to come to Haddonfield in a different vehicle each time. After his initial visit in that old Chevy pick-up truck, the next day, Sunday, he arrived in a slick ’60 Corvette. I think that car was his pride and joy. It was loaded, it was sleek, it ruled Route 9 and the New Jersey Turnpike. I imagined what it would be like to be Bruce, cruising in that Vette up the Pike under that giant Exxon sign in the wee, wee hours, thinking up song ideas while listening to his favorite tunes in that bad-ass Corvette.”

Frank spoke during the press preview luncheon, before the Springsteen exhibit opened last week. He talked about growing up liking music as much as he liked photography, and shared his photos of Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Southside Johnny and even Bette Midler (with Barry Manilow on piano in background) performing at venues in Philadelphia. Frank had heard Bruce during a live radio broadcast on WMMR (hosted by the late Ed Sciaky) from the Main Point in Bryn Mawr.

Like Bruce, Frank lives in New Jersey. He has been listening to music all his life and making photographs of musicians for over fifty years. He first crossed paths with Springsteen thanks to an introduction by their mutual friend, Patti Smith (she and Frank both attended Glassboro State College, now Rowan University. Frank started photographing her even before she met Robert Mapplethorpe).

Danny Clinch, another New Jersey photographer (Toms River) also has work featured in the exhibit. He shot the covers for the Springsteen albums, "The Rising," "The Seeger Sessions," and "Working on a Dream."

You can purchase prints from Stefanko’s Morrison Hotel Gallery collection at the National Constitution Center.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at tgralish@phillynews.com.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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