For Bruce fans, Debra Rothenberg's book is essential. It follows Springsteen's career from when he was 31 until last year. "Bruce Springsteen In Focus Photographs 1980-2012," Rothenberg's first book, has riveting shots from an expert photographer.
"I learned photography from the Stone Pony," she says from her office in New York City, referring to the legendary Asbury Park club that was a starting point for Springsteen and other New Jersey legends. "I didn't have that many opportunities to shoot in college, so when I moved back to New Jersey I was there every night they were open."
Springsteen was known for coming into venues like the Stone Pony unannounced at 1:30 or so in the morning. The book has photos of the Boss playing for all different types of audiences, from small clubs to stadiums, with different band members and jamming with various musicians. "Whether he is playing to 50 or 100,000 people, the energy is exactly the same. He loves what he does," she says.
A few of the photos show Springsteen off stage, like the cover photo, which captures him in a relaxed moment as he is walking in front of a vintage 1957 Ford. The pictures are arranged chronically so you can see him get older, but he has an ageless quality when performing. Some of the last photos have him doing acrobatics that very few 63-year-olds are able to pull off.
Rothenberg's expert use of camera angles and knowledge of lighting give you a feel of being present at each concert. Springsteen always looks terrific, whether he is laughing or making a dramatic gesture while holding his guitar.
"I heard he doesn't like to be photographed when he is smiling. Thats hard to believe, because he is always smiling onstage." She says the he is generally indifferent to having his picture taken, since he is totally focused on his music."
Rothenberg has never had a conversation with him, however. "I chose not to. I would rather take his picture. Of course, she says, she would like to hand him her book personally.
Rothenberg has seen Springsteen on a hundred or so occasions. "Watching him got me through so pretty rough times," she says. She recalls friends who told her "I hate Bruce." "Have you ever seen him in concert?" she would ask. "If you go, I'll buy the ticket. If you don't like it, you don't have to pay me back." Rothenberg has not lost money on these deals, and Springsteen gained a few fans who have followed him across the country.
Rothenberg says you never know what Springsteen is going to do. Known primarily for his work with the E Street Band, he has worked with extended groups that include horn sections and done many solo performances. "If he does two nights in a row, each one is different. He will change it up by pulling out something obscure," she says.
Rothenberg has photographed other rockers in concert, including Paul Mccartney, Sting, Steven Tyler, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Usher and Britney Spears. "I try to make them look good, hoping they will like the picture."
In the years that Rothenberg has covered Springsteen, the technology has changed, with digital cameras replacing film. She says she loves black and white from the "old days." and many of the best shots in the book are not in color.
"I have a love/hate relationship with digital It takes longer with the time you sit at the computer. I used to be able to look at negatives and immediately see which was the best shot."
Dave Howell is a freelance writer.
Jodi Duckett, editor
Easton Library Talks
When: Thursday October 17, 2013
WHERE: Easton Public Library, catherine Drake Meeting Room, 515 Church St, Easton
How Much: Free but registration is required
I will be speaking and showing some of my images from the 30 years I have been a professional photographer at the Easton, PA Public Library on Thursday October 17. The event is free and open to the public