When I was 10 years old the Beatles came to America and I fell in love with them, specifically, and all rock and roll. Mom subscribed to LIFE magazine, which showed me the lives of entertainers and politicians and folks from all walks of life. I was fascinated with the idea of getting to know and tell the real stories of musicians with photography. So, I combined my love of music with my growing love of photography. By the age of 12, I was hanging out at Cleveland’s Top 40 radio station, WKYC. And I always had my camera. When Sonny and Cher came by the station to promote their concert that night on Big Jack’s radio show, I snapped some photos. I sent one to Teen Screen Magazine. They printed it and paid me $2.00. My career was born.
My very first concert that I shot—for my college newspaper—was, in fact, Bruce Springsteen’s very first concert in Cleveland on Feb. 1, 1974, at the Allen Theatre. I had gone there to photograph the headliner, a British guitar band called Wishbone Ash. I had heard some of Bruce’s music on WMMS Radio in Cleveland (who were keen to promote him), but really didn’t know much about him. My college paper editor handed me a Mamiya 2 1/4 negative camera to shoot. It happens to be the least natural way to cover a concert. I had 12 images on a roll of film, and I didn’t know how to change the film. When Bruce and The Big Man and band came onstage, though Bruce was much rougher and less evolved a performer in 1974, he had the charisma and the power to hold that audience (who came to see the British band) in the palm of his hands. I used up seven of the 12 rolls of film images on Bruce. The audience gave him a standing ovation after 45 minutes.
The love affair between Cleveland and The Boss had begun.
Every time I photographed Bruce, it was fun and unpredictable, a treat for any photographer. I loved whatever version of Bruce showed up that particular night. Through 40-plus years, Bruce and The E Street Band never disappointed. Bruce always gives 1000 percent in a performance, and I am there to channel it through the heart and soul of a music fan who exists to show the person, the artist, and all that charisma and energy on film (or digital), to share that moment for all time.
My very fave shot of Bruce from 1984 is a three-shot of Clarence, Bruce and Nils in full lockstep, showing the essence of this band’s camaraderie. Nils is looking at Bruce because, with the blink of an eye, Bruce may change everything in the moment. That is how well they read each other. This is the epitome of the closeness, the family, that is The E Street Band. The cover shot of my new book, Bruce Springsteen: Live in the Heartland, with a foreword by musicologist Dr. Lauren Onkey, is the polar opposite, showing the quieter moments of Bruce that often get ignored.
Here are some exclusive images from Bruce Springsteen: Live in the Heartland, which you can purchase here: