INTERVIEW: Bruce Springsteen, as seen through a photographer’s eye

Danny Clinch will take part in a panel discussion centered on photographing Bruce Springsteen. The event takes place March 5 at Princeton University. Photo courtesy of Zlatko Batistich.

Some of the best music photographers in the business will gather at Princeton University in New Jersey Sunday, March 5 for a discussion about one topic: the Boss.

Bruce Springsteen is a rock ‘n’ roll legend, someone who has earned accolades, critical acclaim and all-around respect from musicians and music lovers alike. The singer is the subject of a new exhibition at The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles, and to celebrate the Boss in his home state of New Jersey, the Morven Museum & Garden will host a panel discussion and Q&A with photographers who have followed Springsteen throughout his career.

The event kicks off Sunday, March 5 at 3 p.m. in McCosh 50 Lecture Hall on the Princeton University campus. Doors open at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for the public and $30 for Friends of Morven. There’s also a limited supply of $100 tickets that include priority seating and a meet and greet with the photographers.

Included among the panelists will be Danny Clinch, Ed Gallucci, Eric Meola, Barry Schneier and Frank Stefanko. The discussion will be moderated by Bob Santelli, executive director of The GRAMMY Museum.

Clinch seems to be a photographer born to cover Springsteen. He grew up in Toms River, New Jersey, approximately 30 minutes from Asbury Park and Freehold, New Jersey, where a young Springsteen cut his teeth in the burgeoning music scene. Since the 1980s, Clinch has captured the Boss on many worldwide tours, including his recent four-hour gigs at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“I know that I had snuck my camera into a show, I think maybe in Philly when I was in high school, so probably around 1981-2, something like that,” Clinch said recently of his first photographs of Springsteen. “I brought my camera to the Amnesty International shows and photographed him at Amnesty International. I have pictures of him and Sting.”

Clinch said what’s special about Springsteen is that in a concert he “really gives it up.” The singer has an enjoyable time in front of his fans, and there are almost too many moments to capture with a camera. In fact, Clinch finds that at a Springsteen concert he doesn’t take his eye away from the viewfinder because he doesn’t want to miss a special moment.

“I recently was at a couple of those four-hour shows in New Jersey, and I mean the guy just wore me out,” he said. “By the end of the show, I was exhausted. I was chasing him all around the stage and the stadium for that matter.”

Clinch, whose photography book features a foreword by Springsteen, is able to attend the Boss’ events whenever he can, and the photographs are added to his archive of the singer. Sometimes he’ll be on assignment, like for Rolling Stone, and other times he might be asked for an image for a tour book. Most importantly, he travels to the gigs to have a good time. “I go out all the time just to purely enjoy myself, and I’m enjoying myself most when I can listen to the music and photograph it at the same time,” he said. “For me, the idea of how much music means to people on several levels of like getting you through hard times, celebrating the good times, the memories that music bring on, is all stuff that’s so important to me, and I know it’s important to others as well.”

For aspiring music photographers, Clinch recommends a simple concept: mutual respect. The photographer tries to have a good working relationship with the musician, the crew, the publicity team and the management. He never crosses the line.

“I think also people sometimes get hung up on the musician themselves and the importance of the photograph to them, but I think the people that help you get the access are important, too,” he said. “I think also, what’s your point of view that you’re bringing to the photograph, to the shot? Everybody can get the guy at the microphone screaming into the microphone, which is a classic shot and is a good one. What is it you’re bringing to it? What’s your point of view? Is it the moments in between? Is it the action? Is it a wide shot? Is it a close-up? Is it a detail?”

He added: “I’m psyched to do what I do, and all the people that I see in the pit, if I’m photographing, are all pretty nice to each other. Usually there’s plenty of room for people to get their own shots and to not get in each other’s way. I mean, I think the important thing for me and the sort of thing that sets me apart from a lot of the other photographers is the access that I get and the ability to be in the pit if I want to be, or to be on the stage to be behind the drum kit, to be stage right or left, and to be able to sort of include the crowd and the venue in the photograph, which I think is really cool.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Morven Museum & Garden will host a panel discussion with photographers who have covered Bruce Springsteen over the years. The event takes place Sunday, March 5 at 3 p.m. in the McCosh 50 Lecture Hall on the Princeton University campus in Princeton, New Jersey. The panel discussion is an event associated with The GRAMMY Museum’s current exhibition, Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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