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September 23, 2022

Outtakes From the Photo Session for the Cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (1978)

Darkness on the Edge of Town is the fourth studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released on June 2, 1978, by Columbia Records. The album marked the end of a three-year gap between albums brought on by contractual obligations and legal battling with former manager Mike Appel.

Cover for the album Darkness on the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce wrote about working with Darkness photographer, Frank Stefanko, in his autobiography, Born to Run, noting his ability to “to strip away your celebrity, your artifice” and how “he naturally intuited the conflicts I was struggling to come to terms with.”

Bruce Springsteen recalled the first time he met and shot 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. My recollection is he borrowed a camera for the day, called a teenage kid from next door to come hold up his one light and started shooting. I stood against some flowery wallpaper in Frank and his wife’s bedroom, looked straight at the camera, gave my best ‘troubled young man’ look and he did the rest. One of those photos ended up on the cover of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

“Frank’s 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.”

Contac sheet for the Darkness.

“It was early 1978, and we were about to embark on several sessions for the album, Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Frank Stefanko recalled. “What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that our working relationship, and our friendship, would last for decades to come. Back when I first heard Bruce’s music in the early 1970s, I had a strong feeling that he would be famous. I had no conception, however, as to what a monumental icon he would become, or to the exalted heights he would ascend.”

(Photos by © Frank Stefanko)

1 comment:

  1. Bathing was not a thing in NJ until the 1980s. The more you know.




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