Review: Classic shots of the Boss get new life at Springsteen photo exhibit in Boston

"Bruce Springsteen: Portraits of an American Music Icon" is part of the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame at the Wang Theatre.

"Bruce and the Big Man," by Ron Pownall. Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame

Bruce Springsteen: Portraits of an American Music Icon,” at the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame in Boston, Boch Wang Theatre

First, let’s state the obvious: Yes, many fans will have seen most of the photos before. But that’s the interesting thing about “Bruce Springsteen: Portraits of an American Music Icon” at the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame in Boston — it makes you realize that you only think you’ve seen them.

Somehow, seeing these classic shots — by photographers Danny Clinch, Ed Gallucci, Eric Meola, Barry Schneier, Pamela Springsteen, Frank Stefanko, and Ron Pownall — at full size, framed and displayed in two well-adorned rooms backstage at the glorious Wang Theatre, brings them to life like never before.


Throw in video interviews with the photographers at each stop, and a classic Springsteen concert playing on a wide screen in the background … Well, it’s safe to say it beats scrolling through a Google image search any day of the week.

There’s a thrill of recognition when you first spot some of these well-known images, like Frank Stefanko’s shot of Bruce and his ’60 Corvette that wound up on the cover of Springsteen’s 2016 memoir, or Eric Meola’s 1977 photo taken of Bruce leaning on a hood in the desert somewhere between Salt Lake City and Reno. (It’s not exactly the one from 2010’s “The Promise” collection, but it’s close.)


And it’s appropriate that Boston-area photographer Barry Schneier‘s moody negatives of Bruce at the piano at the Harvard Square Theatre should be enlarged to take up a whole wall — they were taken the night Springsteen’s future manager Jon Landau, then a writer for Boston’s Real Paper, famously declared him to be “Rock ‘n’ Roll future.”

But there were also some photos I hadn’t seen, and those were a pleasure too: The visceral “Bruce & the Big Man” by Ron Pownall, taken of Springsteen and his longtime saxophonist Clarence Clemons at the Worcester Centrum in 1984, was one; and a 2009 Danny Clinch shot of Bruce toasting Clarence and his tour-mates at the end of the “Working on a Dream” tour is both striking, in the joy present on their faces, and moving, knowing now that it would be Clarence’s last before he died from a stroke in June of 2011.


And maybe it was just me, but there’s a certain intimacy in Pamela Springsteen’s photos — many during Bruce’s 1990s cowboy-hat-and-facial-hair phase — that I’d never noted before studying them in full size here. Maybe it’s with his sister, long an admired professional photographer in her own right, that Springsteen is most able to truly let his guard down as a subject.

The best part of “Bruce Springsteen: Portraits of an American Music Icon” is that it’s part of something much bigger: the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame (FARHOF), launched in 2019 at Boston’s Boch Center, home of the Wang and several other venerable theaters.

Curated by Deana McCloud and Bob Santelli of the Museum Collective, its other current displays include “Legends of Folk, Americana, Roots,” “Cultural Heroes,” “Boston: A Music Town,” “The Wang Theatre: A Century of Great Music,” and the David Bieber Archives. (There’s also a hologram of Boch Enterprises CEO Ernie Boch Jr. talking about his famous collection of guitars, believe it or not.)

You can see below some of the photos I mentioned, but these snapshots far from do them justice — if you’re a fan of Springsteen and a follower of his career, a trip to the Wang to see for yourself is in order.

This shot by Frank Stefanko wound up on the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 2016 biography. – Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame
A 1977 shot by Eric Meola. – Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame
A full wall of Pamela Springsteen’s negatives. – Peter Chianca /
Blow-ups of Barry Schneier’s negatives adorn a wall at the new Springsteen photo exhibit in Boston. – Peter Chianca /
The photographers (like Danny Clinch, above) recorded video interviews explaining their work. – Peter Chianca /
A photo by Pamela Springsteen hangs next to the introductory plaque for “Bruce Springsteen: Portraits of an American Music Icon” at the Wang Theatre. – Peter Chianca /

Public tours of the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame lasting 80-100 minutes are offered on select days and times. Reservations are required. Price is $25 for adults, $17 for children; private tours are also available. More information at


A version of this post appeared previously on Blogness on the Edge of Town.


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