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S.J. Photographer's Springsteen Shots Make It to the 'Promised Land'

Photos of Bruce Springsteen taken by Palmyra resident Frank Stefanko are part of a new exhibit about the singer at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Frank Stefanko and The Boss are meeting across the river. 

Stefanko, a Palmyra resident, shot the covers for Bruce Springsteen's albums Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River. Both cover photos were taken in Haddonfield in the late 1970s.  

A handful of the pictures Stefanko shot of Springsteen during that period are part of a major new exhibit opening Friday, Feb. 17 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The exhibit, From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, was previously on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 3 at the Constitution Center, contains more than 150 pieces from Springsteen's career. The items on display include the Fender guitar pictured on the cover of Springsteen's 1975 breakthrough album, Born to Run, the iconic outfit The Boss wore on the cover of Born in the U.S.A., as well as personal scrapbooks, and notebooks filled with handwritten lyrics. 

The exhibit also includes the 1960 Corvette that Springsteen bought after the success of Born to Run. Stefanko shot Springsteen leaning on the car in the winter of 1978, outside the photographer's Haddonfield home. A blowup of that picture will be on display in the lobby leading to the exhibit, and the photo will also be exhibited in the same room as the Corvette, Stefanko said. Another of Stefanko's photos, this one of a pensive Springsteen holding a Gibson guitar, is also part of the exhibit. That photo was shot in 1982, during a session leading up to the release of Springsteen's acoustic album, Nebraska. 

Stefanko said he's honored that his work will be part of a Springsteen exhibit so close to home. The photographer, 66, was born in Philadelphia and raised in South Jersey. 

Holding the Springsteen exhibit at the Constitution Center makes sense, Stefanko said, since "so many things he does are for the people."

"There should be a great amount of traffic from people who are Springsteen fans, but also from people who are just coming to Philly to see the sites" and will be able to learn more about Springsteen and his strong connection to the American Dream, Stefanko said. 

Some of the thousands of photos Stefanko shot of The Boss from 1978 to 1982 are collected in the book Days of Hopes and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen. First published in 2003 in paperback, the book was in hardcover this past September by California-based publisher Insight Editions. (The title is a play on Springsteen's 2001 song, "Land of Hopes and Dreams.")

"Frank had a way of stripping away any celebrity refuse you may have picked up along the way and finding you in you ... The pictures' lack of grandeur, their directness, their toughness, were what I wanted for my music at that time," Springsteen writes in the introduction to Days of Hopes and Dreams. "He showed me the people I was writing about in my songs. He showed the part of me that was still one of them."

The Constitution Center exhibit will also feature photographs by Toms River resident Danny Clinch, who shot the covers for the Springsteen albums The Rising, The Seeger Sessions and Working on a Dream.

Stefanko and Clinch's Springsteen shots appeared together in the  2010 show "From Darkness to a Dream," at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City.

Prints of many of those photos—including numbered editions signed by the photographers—will be for sale in the Constitution Center's gift shop for the run of the exhibit, Stefanko said. 

Springsteen and the E Street Band will release a new album, Wrecking Ball, on March 6. Springsteen and the band will also embark on a world tour that stops at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on March 28 and 29 – with a new horn section, following the death last year of saxophonist and Springsteen foil Clarence Clemons.  

For more information about From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, visit the National Constitution Center's website

Dan Reynolds February 12, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Go Frank!
Ceciley Binegar February 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Amazing and candid photos!
brokeninbayville February 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I am going to see this in a few weeks. Can't wait......

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