Looking at the cover art, you’d probably guess that the iconic photo of Bruce Springsteen on Darkness on the Edge of Town was shot in his native Asbury Park. Or maybe in nearby Homdel, New Jersey, where he bought a farmhouse to write the album in.
That speaks to how well The Boss and South Jersey photographer Frank Stefanko were simpatico. The front and back cover images for Darkness, with a tousle-haired Bruce standing against venetian blinds and floral wallpaper, gazing in the lens with a mix of world-weary ennui and quiet confidence, were actually shot in Stefanko’s home in Haddonfield, New Jersey, a cozy borough just 25 minutes east of Philadelphia. They were two of the first photographs Stefanko took of Springsteen, from a test shoot that would precede their main portrait sessions. And with The Boss presenting an everyman character in his poise – whether intentional or accidental — the image connected hugely with the songs he was crafting at the time.
As Stefanko told Pitchfork in a 2010 interview, “We were trying to recreate these middle America, working class families; guys that were looking for redemption. It could have been done in the 70s or 50s or even the 40s. The idea was that these people transcended time or space. But we were trying to get something to look like an old Kodacolor snapshot. There were a lot of black and white photographs taken in those sessions too which were very striking in their own right. But the idea of this color photograph that could have been a snapshot in somebody’s drawer worked for the album.”
As it turned out, many famous images of Springsteen were also taken in and around Haddonfield, by Stefanko. The artwork for The River. The cover of his memoir, Born to Run. This fall, Stefanko released his own book, a massive new photo collection called Bruce Springsteen: Further Up The Road. The book chronicles the two Jersey boys’ four decades working together, from the sessions for Darkness and The River through the Nebraska years and up to Springsteen’s tours in 2012 and 2016. It features photos, proof sheets, and lots of lore, and to commemorate the year they began working together, is released in a limited edition of 1,978 copies.
“Bruce was looking for a certain feeling, a certain look,” Stefanko said when I caught up with him via phone last month. “And to my great pleasure, the images I created were the ones that he felt represented the characters he was writing about.” Continue reading →