Pamela Springsteen is a professional photographer who often works with musicians, and counts her famous brother Bruce among the artists she has shot. But in an interview on Mitch Slater’s “Financially Speaking” podcast that also featured photographer Frank Stefanko — who also has frequently worked with Bruce, shooting, for instance, the striking covers of the Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River albums — Pamela shared stories about some of the other famous musicians she has worked with. You can listen to it on Spotify.
(Prints of photos by both photographers are currently being sold through the Morrison Hotel Gallery; visit morrisonhotelgallery.com. And their individual websites are pamelaspringsteen.com and stefankostudio.com.)
The idea for the joint interview, says Slater, “came from Frank last summer at Bruce’s Freehold museum opening (of the ‘Springsteen: His Hometown,’ exhibition at the Monmouth County Historical Association). He and Pam have a great history going back to 1982 when Bruce took his young sister to see Frank’s darkroom and have him give her a quick photography lesson.”
Here’s some of what Pamela Springsteen — who is 12 ½ years younger than Bruce — had to say about shooting artists other than him:
On photographing Willie Nelson at his ranch in Luck, Texas: “The one thing he did say to me is that he didn’t like to pose. So I said, ‘Not a problem. There will be no posing here. No posing allowed.’ …
“Willie was great. He was fun. He was funny, he was incredibly giving and generous with his time. He didn’t get annoyed with me for asking him to do certain things.
“We really had a great day. And then at the end of the day … he had an old truck, and I said, ‘Can I photograph you with your truck?’ And everybody was like, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no. You don’t want to go out with him in that truck.’
” ‘Yeah I, do. I’d love to photograph him.’
” ‘No, you’re crazy, you can’t go out with him in that truck!’
” ‘I don’t now what the big deal is about the truck.’
” ‘All right, I’m just telling you now, it’s at your own risk.’
“I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll take it.’
“So Willie was like, ‘Let’s go.’ So we get in the truck. It’s just he and I. It’s not the assistants. It’s not the, whatever, crew we had there, right? It just he and I. And I turned to him and I said, ‘Finally I’ve gotten you alone.’ I said, ‘Let’s go.’
“So off we go in the truck, and there was this little pink house on the property. I said, ‘Drive by that pink house. Let’s do a couple of photos there.’ So we drive by the pink house. I get out of the passenger side and I hop into the back. It’s a pickup truck. I hop into the back of the pickup truck … and I’m shooting him through the window, through the the side mirror and through the back window, and suddenly he starts to take off.
“The truck starts to move, and then it starts to move a little faster! And now I realize what they were trying to tell me. I was warned. I was like, ‘Hey, Willie!’
“So of course he stopped the truck, and I got back in the passenger seat, and we had a big laugh. And he drove me all around the property. Just the two of us. And it was just so much fun.”
On shooting Randy Newman riding a bicycle: “Randy’s fun, so you can do anything with Randy. He likes fun, he goes along with whatever you want to try.
“We had done some nice staged shots, you know, earlier in the day, and there was the bike. There was a bike in the studio. And honestly I don’t remember if I asked him to ride around on the bike, or if he decided he wanted to ride around on the bike. It could have gone either way.”
On Ice Cube: “I was a fan of the music (hip-hop) but I think I started getting those (hip-hop) jobs because … actually I don’t really know for sure, but the way that I shot and the way that I lit was always very moody, with lots of … dark shadows, and grainy. And I think my style just sort of lent itself to being hired for those jobs.
“The first time I shot Ice Cube was for Spin magazine. He came to my studio, and he had a big entourage. He was very easy to work with, although there wasn’t really a lot of communication between us.
“I mean, that really is the whole thing about shooting anybody. It doesn’t matter who you’re shooting. You have to create the trust. You have to create an environment where the person that you’re photographing trusts you, and feels safe with you, and knows that they can let down their guard and open up, and have fun at the same time. That’s a huge part of the job.
“So we did that, on that first shoot with him. So six months later, I got called to do his album cover (for The Predator). I was really surprised and very excited. That is what they wanted. The wanted a look of very dark and moody.”
You can listen to the podcast in its entirety here (or to check out other podcasts in the series, some but not all of which are entertainment-related, click here):
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