By: Jimmy Steinfeldt
Hollywood, Calif (The Hollywood Times) – 2/12/2019 “My first camera was a box camera. Then later in the 70s when I shot the Rock and roll photos I used a Mamiya RB67,” photographer Frank Stefanko told The Hollywood Times.
Here is the interview:
Jimmy Steinfeldt: How often do you clean your lens?
Frank Stefanko: Every time.
JS: What photographers influenced you?
FS: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn. They were incredible. Their art and photography. I also liked the work of Diane Arbus very much. Most of my photography however was influenced by film noir movies. Every frame out of those movies was a composition unto itself. Perfect lighting, and all the points that make a piece of fine art.
JS: What cameras are you shooting with these days?
FS: The Canon 5D Mark III is my main camera. Also a Nikon Coolpix P 1000. I like it because it’s a fixed lens with a 25-3000mm zoom lens. My go-to camera, and back up camera is a Leica V Lux 4 with a fixed lens and a 25-600mm zoom lens. It’s also got sepia tone and other fun effects.
JS: Is there a camera you always wanted?
FS: Probably one of the more expensive Leica’s. When I was younger I always wanted a Hasselblad.
JS: Describe for our readers the two very famous clubs in New York City in the 1970s, CBGBs, and Max’s Kansas City.
FS: They were dives (laughs). They were funky and full of life. It was the place to be. To see and be seen, and hear music. There were other fun places at that time too: The Ocean Club, and The Bottom Line. Lower Manhattan, SOHO, The Village, The East Village. It was just jumping back in the 70s. So much going on in terms of art, and music.
By the way I’m from New Jersey closer to Philadelphia and the music I often went to see was in that area. The Spectrum, and Tower Theatre. Before that the old Folk clubs. Manny Rubin’s “Second Fret”. The Main Point in Bryn Mawr. Bruce Springsteen played these places and was helped during that time by DJ Ed Sciaky. Also DJ David Dye got behind Bruce’s music and the music of Patti Smith.
JS: Is there anyone you’d like to photograph?
FS: I’d like to do a portrait of Keith Richards. He’s such an important person in music and his face tells all the stories in the world.
JS: Tell us about your books.
FS: Bruce Springsteen Further up the Road. It covers my forty years photographing Bruce. It’s an expensive signed and numbered edition. It weighs about ten pounds! It’s available at fine galleries: Morrison Hotel Gallery, Snap Gallery in England, and Wall of Sound Gallery in Italy. I’m happy to say it’s been very successful. I worked with Guido Harari for two years on this book. He came here to New Jersey from Italy and we opened up my archive and spread all the photos out. Prints, negatives, transparences, digital images. The book is amazing! It’s printed with several different types of top quality paper including translucent paper, and also includes quadruple fold-outs. It was printed by Grafiche Milani who does the world class printing for Taschen, and Genesis Press.
I have two other books: Days of Hope and Dreams: An Intimate Portrait of Bruce Springsteen. Patti Smith: American Artist.
JS: I saw that you had an exhibit in my hometown of Minneapolis.
FS: Yes at the Frederick Weisman Museum on campus at the University of Minnesota. It was the first museum show I ever did and it was curated by Colleen Sheehy. It was called “Springsteen. Troubadour of the Highway.” It was one of the first times a Rock and roll artist was featured in a major museum exhibition. 2000 people came to the opening! The museum had never seen such a turn out before. That show toured several other museums concluding at the Newark Museum where it had huge attendance too. I think it led the way for subsequent museum exhibits on musicians.
JS: Please tell us something about Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith.
FS: Patti and I are dear friends, we went to college together in New Jersey. I’ve known her just about my whole life. She is a true artist in every aspect of the word. She’s a photographer, painter, poet, a prose writer, an activist, and musician. She’s influenced so many people in poetry and music. She’s now ascended to the stature of artist extraordinaire. She’s respected all over the world. She’s revered and she did it in her own way. She never compromised who she was. She never sold out.
As for Bruce, wow! When I first saw him I said this guy is going to be famous one day. But I never, ever, could calculate how high he would ascend. Not only in the field of music but in his place in the universe, on the planet. There’s nobody to compare to Bruce Springsteen and what he does. His writing is incredible. He paints such pictures with words and he hits all those spots in your soul. His stage shows are monumental. Three and half to four hour shows.
He just completed the Broadway thing where he spilled his soul out to all that came to see. Here’s a guy who came from a humble New Jersey beginning, like Patti, and took it to the moon. I can’t say enough about him. I admire him greatly.
JS: What advice would you have for a young person who want’s to pursue photography as a career?
FS: Same advice you’d give a young person who wants to become a rock star. You got to be totally dedicated. You can’t take a few pictures and figure all good things are going to happen. You have to love the art form itself otherwise don’t even bother going out and buying a camera. You’ve got to love that you are crystalizing time, a magic moment. You’ve got to understand the art form itself. Composition, repetition of shape, color, and placement. A lot of people shoot pictures but only a few can make a fine art photograph. Also you got to stick to it. Just like with rock stars. They learn their instrument or learn how to sing. Then maybe they will get a gig. Then maybe they will get a recording. Then maybe that recording will sell. Many never get that far. There are only so many who succeed and it’s the cream that rises to the top.
JS: Frank is there a cause or charity that you support?
FS: I support many but of special importance to me is the Kristen Ann Carr Fund. Set up by Dave Marsh and Barbara Carr. Dave and Barbara lost their daughter when she was 21 to Sarcoma. They set up this fund to fight cancer and have raised a tremendous sum. Me, Danny Clinch, and many of my photographer friends support that fund.
I contribute to many national park and wildlife funds. Also, in my Springsteen book, I put in some of my landscape photographs from the Florida Everglades, and Monument Valley, and places like that because I want to protect these wild areas from the encroachment of the footprint of man.
JS: What’s next for Frank Stefanko?
FS: For years I’ve been going through the Everglades and swamps in Florida doing wildlife photography. I’m very involved in the history of Florida. As soon as I can I’ll go through the 1000s of pictures I made there recently. I continue to build my portfolio of landscape photographs.
JS: Where can I point our readers to learn more about you?
FS: Just Google Frank Stefanko.