Saturday, July 4, 2015

Frank Stefanko is a fine art photographer with connections to New Jersey performers Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. Stefanko's seminal photographs, taken in the 1960s through the 80s, reveal the emerging careers of the two artists.

Early life

Stefanko was born in Philadelphia in 1946, and has been absorbed by photography since he was given an old box-camera when about seven years of age. Among his early "teachers" and inspirations were stark, black-and-white film noir movies, cinematographers such as James Wong Howe, Fritz Lang, and reality photographers such as Diane Arbus, who shot every-day people in natural settings. Stefanko received fine-art training at Glassboro College (now Rowan University) in Glassboro, New Jersey.

It was at Glassboro State College, in the mid-sixties, that Stefanko met and became friends with Patti Smith. He began photographing her even before Robert Mapplethorpe did. The Patti Smith photographs led to an introduction to Bruce Springsteen, after Springsteen saw the portraits and inquired about the photographer.

Photographing Bruce Springsteen

Stefanko was a resident of Haddonfield, New Jersey for many years. The mostly self-taught photographer, married with two young sons, asked Springsteen if he should come to New York. The Boss said he'd prefer to come to Stefanko's home. "Springsteen hadn't recorded anything in quite awhile. The Darkness On The Edge Of Town album that we worked on back in 1978... was kind of like his re-emergence. He had been kind of out of the loop for a few years and was coming back," quotes Stefanko.

Stefanko's photographs of Bruce Springsteen grace the album covers of Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River. His photos appear in Springsteen's Live 1975â€"1985 CD, in Tracks, Greatest Hits, in the book Greetings from E Street by Robert Santelli, American Madness by Julio Blanco, as well as in books by Dave Marsh and in BRUCE, by Peter Carlin.

Stefanko also created the cover art for Southside Johnny's Hearts of Stone album and the Shonde's album, The Garden.

Many of Stefanko's photos, including some never before seen, appear in the special edition, remastered thirtieth anniversary box-set of Darkness and in the documentary The Promise, released in November, 2010. Stefanko appears in a brief interview in The Promise.

His images have been shown in the exhibition "Springsteen: Troubadour of the Highway", which toured the US from 2002â€"2004, sponsored by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. Colleen Sheehy, curator of the production is quoted as saying, "Frank Stefanko's photographs show a sublime convergence of singer and image at a critical point in Springsteen's career". The "Troubadour" show appeared at the Cranbrook Art Museum, The Experience Music Project, the Newark Museum of Art, and at Monmouth University.

Stefanko is among 43 fine-art photographers invited to donate a print to "FOCUS: an auction of the finest photography to benefit City Harvest...." The fund-raiser in 2008, supported City Harvest, a food collection bank in New York City. He has also donated photos which will raise funds to benefit the Food Bank of North Jersey, for relief of Hurricane Sandy.

One-man photographic exhibitions with vintage silver-gel portraits by Stefanko include "Days of Hopes and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen" (Chris Murray, Director of the Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, DC, said, "The Haddonfield, New Jersey pictures ...are among the best photographs of Springsteen.",) and "The Swamps of Jersey" tour, an installation shown at SNAP Galleries in Birmingham, England and in the Morrison Hotel Galleries in SoHo, New York and LaJolla, California.

Some of Stefanko's notable Springsteen photographs, along with those taken by Danny Clinch, appeared at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's exhibition, "From Asbury Park to the Promised Land," in February through September of 2012. Springsteen's 1960 Corvette, along with Stefanko's photo of Springsteen posing with that same Corvette, were at the entrance of the exhibition.

Photos by Stefanko, Danny Clinch, Eric Meola ("Born to Run"), and Pam Springsteen are featured in the Grammy Museum's traveling show, "Bruce Springsteen, a Photographic Journey" opening at the Woodie Guthrie Center, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in April, 2014. In 2015, the show will tour other venues.

Books by Stefanko

Patti Smith-American Artist has been produced as a fine-art photography book containing some of the “most beautiful portraits of Patti Smith ever taken” according to photographer, Bob Gruen. The intimate photographs, along with Stefanko's first-hand accounts, capture the period of cultural change from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s, when a new genre of music was being born. The book chronicles young Smith’s emergence as a writer, painter, singer-songwriter, performer, poet, mystic, and political activist: a true “American Artist”. Smith has said of Stefanko, "good [turnpike] exit, good work, good friend."

Days of Hope and Dreams is Stefanko's first book, published in 2003. It is "An intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen" in black and white images taken from 1978â€"1982. The book contains recollections and anecdotes of the friendship between the two men. In the book's introduction, Springsteen says: "The cover shot of 'Darkness' was taken in Frank's bedroom, and any exterior shots were taken either in Frank's yard or on the streets of Haddonfield [NJ]. The pictures were raw. Frank had a way of stripping away any celebrity refuse you may have picked up along the way, and finding the you in you....Frank always shot your internal life. He let your external imperfections show. His photos had a purity and poetry...."

  • Days of Hope and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen. Watson-Guptill, c.2003. Insight, 2003. Watson-Guptill, 2003. ISBN 0-8230-8387-X.

Second Edition release September, 2011, by Insight Editions. ISBN 1-60887-031-6

  • Patti Smith American Artist. Insight, c.2006. ISBN 1-933784-06-7.


External links

  • Courier Post news
  • Reference: "Corvette Winter" photo by Stefanko
  • National Constitution Center
  • [2] AARP Magazine
  • Video featuring Stefanko's images on YouTube (interview with Stefanko)

Photographers Against Hunger [3]*

  • Swamps of New Jersey. Snap Gallery, UK, exhibition notice.
  • [4] Interview with Stefanko Re: Stefanko's relationship and work with Springsteen.
  • [5] San Diego Tribune article
  • [6] Associated Press Article, "Putting the Boss on the Map".
  • [7]

Monmouth University symposium with Stefanko & Colleen Sheehy South Jersey Magazine Interview (search Stefanko) [8]

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