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Bestselling Springsteen Bio Illustrated by South Jersey Photographer

Three of Palmyra resident Frank Stefanko's photos of Bruce Springsteen appear in a revealing new biography about the Boss.

Getting at what drives Bruce Springsteen has never been easy.

But, a new biography by author Peter Ames Carlin digs as deep into the Boss’ psyche as any previous book has.

Bruce, published Oct. 30 by Simon & Schuster, is already on the New York Times bestseller list.

The 494-page book, written with Springsteen’s cooperation, has a South Jersey connection. 

Palmyra resident Frank Stefanko shot three of the photos used in the book. Two of the pictures were shot at the former Shellow’s Luncheonette in East Camden in 1978. One shows Springsteen playing pinball as members of the E Street Band watch. The other is a group shot, with the entire band jammed around a booth. 

The third photo, shot in 1982, depicts pre-superstardom Springsteen sitting on a bed in a rented Colts Neck home, an acoustic guitar lying next to him. 

Photos from the 1978 sessions, shot when Stefanko lived in Haddonfield, were used for the covers of Springsteen’s albums Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The River. (The photos from these sessions are compiled in Stefanko's book, Days of Hope and Dreams, released in hardcover last year.)

Stefanko got to know Springsteen pretty well during that period, and the two have stayed in touch since. But, Stefanko, 65, said in a recent interview there was always a sense of mystery surrounding the Boss.

“A couple of times when I was with Bruce, we were talking about life and he said, ‘I’m complicated.’ Little did I know at the time how complicated he was in certain things in terms of problems he had or things he was plagued by,” Stefanko said, referring to Springsteen’s battles with depression, detailed in Bruce. 

“To me, this book is the most in-depth, probing, revealing book about Bruce Springsteen since Born to Run by Dave Marsh,” which was published in 1979.

Stefanko said his three photos in the book illustrate a key period in Springsteen’s growth as an artist.

“I think the meat of the book revolves around the 'Darkness' period of time, and how important all that was,” Stefanko said. “It appears that most of the people, at least of our age group, the Baby Boomers, who grew up with Bruce from the beginning, are relating to the 'Darkness' period as the peak of Bruce’s career, and when the more serious and more mature writing, topics and characters evolved.

“I think that period was when Bruce really started to come alive in terms of his scope of the human struggle. That became embedded in a lot of people’s minds, and they related to the photos from that era, and I’m just very fortunate to be one of the photographers from that era.”

(Click on the video above to watch Peter Ames Carlin discussing his book.)

In the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, Stefanko is among 13 Springsteen photographers who’ve donated original, signed prints of their shots to a raffle benfitting Community FoodBank of New Jersey. To enter the raffle, visit Backstreets, the Bruce Springsteen news site. The deadline to enter is Monday, Dec. 10. 

Robert Zerilli December 02, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I am currently reading the book now. Got it for my 50th. Birthday and I cannot put it down. I am a second cousin to Bruce (his maternal side) & there is plenty of stuff in there that Peter uncovers that I just never knew about. Great job Peter!
Robert Zerilli December 02, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Great job!

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