Bruce Springsteen: In Focus 1980-2012 is a new book from photographer Debra Rothenberg, where she captures Springsteen largely from a fans perspective. She took her first photograph of Bruce Springsteen in December 1980, when the River tour stopped in Rochester, New York. She got hooked and started following tours, even moving to the Jersey Shore and covering him for the local papers. For the first few years she’d shoot from her seat, capturing the Boss alongside regular concert goers. "I didn’t even know what it meant to have a photo pass," she says, explaining the origins of her new book. While she eventually relocated to the photo pit, much of her best work comes from floor seats and impromptu Eighties sets in Asbury Park. Bruce would arrive late-night, jump onstage with other musicians, and, borrowing instruments from the band, give the small crowd his arena-honed all. "It doesn't matter with Bruce if he's in a stadium or a small club," she says. "He's unlike any other performer." — ELISABETH GARBER-PAUL
"That was the night that he called me out by name! He sees me on the side of the stage — he looks at me, looks at the camera, he looks back at me and he smiles. He shouts out Debbie! But I’d never met him! How did he know my name? The only thing that I was able to think of, was he's probably seen my pictures in the local papers, and read the credits. And there were no other females taking pictures—I was the only one."
"I look at those pictures, at some of the things he does, and it amazes me. He was flipping upside down, he was rolling on the floor. And he's got these boots on! Sometimes he'd even have a guitar. I often wonder, how did he practice that? How does he do these moves?"
"I think this was a skit that they were doing, being chased by one of his bodyguards. But I've never been able to find out what are they doing. It was a goofy shot, a fun shot. It's one of the shots that, every time I look at it, it makes me laugh."
"That's when he jumped up and played with Levon Helm at the Stone Pony. They sang 'Up on Cripple Creek.' It was just one of those nights, honestly, even before Bruce showed up — Levon was amazing."
"A reporter interviewed me and he said, 'I'm a guitar player and I love all the guitars that Bruce is playing, but it's weird cause he doesn’t usually play these guitars.' I explained that they're all from when he would jump up onstage with someone else, and grab any guitar that happened to be there. This was a Kramer guitar, but there were Fenders, you never knew. And it was very high up on him — much higher than when he plays his normal guitar."
"That was with Cats on a Smooth Surface, a local band. I think Bruce always felt comfortable that they could do anything, sing anything, play anything with him. They had their own songs, but they were primarily back then a cover band. So Bruce could jump on stage and do anything."
"That night was a big surprise — the whole E Street band was there, except Nils [Lofgren.] I used to go there every night that it was open. Who's ever gonna expect that the whole band is gonna show up? I think they played over ten songs that night, too."
"This is Bruce and Steven (then ‘Miami Steve’) at the microphone. My first published picture was from the same series of shows, and was very similar to this shot. It came out in the Spetember 1981 issue of New Jersey Monthly.”
"I don't exactly remember if that was sweat, or if he put his head in water and shook it off, or a combination of both. He still does that, shakes his head and all the water flows off him."