The new book Bruce Springsteen: Further Up the Road traces nearly four decades of the beloved musician‘s career, as seen by the self-taught photographer Frank Stefanko. Stefanko’s photographs include the cover images for the Springsteen albums Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River, but many of the images in the book have never before been published.
In Springsteen’s memoir Born to Run, he described working with Stefanko:
I’d gotten to know Patti Smith a little through our work together on “Because the Night.” When I visited her during one of her performances at The Bottom Line, she gave me the name of a South Jersey photographer and said, “You should let this guy take your picture.”
One winter afternoon I drove south to Haddonfield, New Jersey, and met Frank Stefanko. Frank had photographed Patti at the beginning of her career. He worked a day job at a local meatpacking plant and continued to practice his craft in his spare time.
Frank was a rough-edged but easygoing kind of guy. My recollection is he borrowed a camera for the day, called a teenage kid from next door to come over and hold up his one light and started shooting. I stood against some flowery wallpaper in Frank and his wife’s bedroom, looked straight into the camera, gave him my best “troubled young man,” and he did the rest. One of those photos ended up on the cover of Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Frank’s photographs were stark. His talent was he managed to strip away your celebrity, your artifice, and get to the raw you. His photos had a purity and a street poetry to them. They were lovely and true, but they weren’t slick. Frank looked for your true grit and he naturally intuited the conflicts I was coming to terms with. His pictures captured the people I was writing about in my songs and showed me the part of me that was still one of them. We had other cover options but they didn’t have the hungriness of Frank’s pictures.
Text from BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen. Copyright © 2016 by Bruce Springsteen. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Bruce Springsteen: Further Up the Road is available from Wall of Sound Editions.