It's a bit of a Cinderella story -- a young woman, in love with Bruce Springsteen's music as a teen, takes several photographs of her idol in concert. A little while later, a magazine asks to use one for a story it's publishing. It was the start of a wildly successful career as a photographer for Debra L. Rothenberg. Some 30 years later, Rothenberg has become the Bruce Springsteen photographer. Her new book, Bruce Springsteen in Focus 1980-2012, is a visual record of her 30-plus years of shooting Springsteen both on and off stage.
Rothenberg stood in the cold all night to get tickets to her first Springsteen concert. "Before [that], I had only been to one concert in my life -- Barry Manilow when I was 13!" she tells us from her New York home.
Her first photo of the musician appeared in New Jersey Monthly Magazine in September of 1981. "My oldest brother, Randy, was a writer at the time for NJ Monthly and heard they were doing a story on Bruce. When they heard I had photos, they called me and asked if they could use one. It was exciting.
"It's so funny looking back on that photo now -- after putting the negative in the enlarger and putting the enlarger all the way up to the ceiling, Bruce was the size of a penny. I thought it was going to be the best photo I [would ever take] of him. Six months later I was in the 14th row with my best friend, Marti, with Bruce staring right into my camera."
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She's shot thousands of photographs of Springsteen over the years and several are special Rothenberg, tells us. "I really love the photo from 1985 where he is smiling at the camera with the baseball hat on backwards. Before the book was released, that was probably one of my better known images of him." (See below)
"There are a series of images from the 1988 Tunnel of Love Tour where the lighting and shadows are beautiful. And the cover image [of the book] that was a great day."
With so many images to choose from, Rothenberg admits it was difficult deciding what to include and what to leave out of Bruce Springsteen in Focus 1980-2012. "It was a very difficult decision. We had to cut so many, and there were a lot I would have loved to have had in the book, many that have never before been seen [in print before, although] I show them in my slide presentations. Some didn't fit; there were others that didn't make the cut because they were similar to ones that did make it in."
Rothenberg (left) says she has more than enough images for a second and even a third book on Springsteen. "I could easily do a part two with all the images that didn't make it. That is a question I get asked a lot, but there won't be a part two. This will be my only book on Bruce Springsteen."
See Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert at 8 p.m. May 6. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins. For information, call 281-363-3300 or visit woodlandscenter.org. $98 to $118.
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