Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Think more, think less or let others think for you?

I recently watched the documentary on the making of Bruce Springsteen's album Darkness on the Edge of Town. I was moved by it in many ways. Bruce was only in his 20's when he made the record but his philosophy, work ethic and vision seemed to me to be so mature. He was trying to come to a reckoning with the adult world; dealing with a future life of limitations and compromise but finding the resilience and commitment to still embrace life. He also was considering what is sin in a good life and how do you carry that, deal with that? Thus, he wanted the album to be stripped down to its barest and austere elements with no distraction to the narrative.
When it came to deciding on getting the photograph for the album cover, Frank Stefanko was chosen. Frank had just moved into a new apartment so it had little furniture and old wallpaper on the walls from the previous blue collar working class family. Bruce just took a sample of his usual clothes and Frank took a few test shots.

© Frank Stefanko,

Of course Bruce chose those test shots as they were very stripped down, revealing and 'blue collar' - just what he wanted for the album. Fortuitous for Frank but what if he had found out more about Bruce's vision for the album? Would he have done something similar or entirely different and perhaps cliched? Who knows, but a good story and perhaps a lesson to photographers - show the client all your shots?

Back to Bruce; his maturity at such an early age stunned me. He seemed to see that as you get older, you can end up in a life in stasis, shackled by memories and hurt. Old habits die hard and patterns repeat themselves and you can unintentionally let past disappointments effect your present and it can be difficult to move forward.

I'm listening to that album with new ears whilst smiling at the cover shot by Frank Stefanko.

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