As legendary musician Bruce Springsteen prepares for his return to Philadelphia to perform at Citizens Bank Park on August 16 and 18, local historian Chuck Langerman has shared a Cheltenham grad’s career trajectory which includes direct ties to “The Boss” and some of the most influential singers, songwriters, performers, and musicians of our time, including Bob Dylan, Prince, and Tom Petty, among others.
1970 Cheltenham High School graduate Joel Bernstein has chronicled the inner lives and public moments of rock and roll icons for decades. A self-taught photographer and printer, he has been published in a wide spectrum of books on music, musicians, and the music business, as well as in The New York Times, Time, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Bernstein’s many album covers are commonly listed among the most influential in rock’s visual history.
Some of Bernstein’s photos can be seen in Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run.” He worked with Springsteen in 1979 and 1980 and lived with the musician for a week in his Holmdel, NJ home while Springsteen worked on his fifth studio album, “The River.”
Bernstein shot portraits, documentary photos, and two Oakland, California concert dates on Springsteen’s “The River” tour.
According to Langerman, Bernstein got his start when he was still a student at Cheltenham High. He was the photography editor of both the “El Delator” yearbook and “The Cheltonian” newspaper. When Bernstein was 16, Joni Mitchell, then at the beginning of her legendary recording career, asked him to be her personal photographer.
One of Bernstein’s most famous album covers was Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” (featured in title image) which featured the rock icon strolling past a New York City wall. Bernstein shot the cover when he was a senior at CHS.
Bernstein received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 from the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. From their biography:
Joel Bernstein is an acclaimed photographer whose work, spanning more than four decades, chronicles the inner lives and public moments of some of the most important singer-songwriters, performers and musicians of our time. They include: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Prince, Jackson Browne, Laura Nyro, Tom Petty and many others. His preferred method has been to spend as much time as possible with his subjects until the right instant–the perfect moment of intimacy–reveals itself. Bernstein’s work is well known within the world of music and pop culture, and is included in the permanent collection of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
His work was chronicled in The Philadelphia Inquirer the same year. An excerpt:
Bernstein, 66, began his career while a Cheltenham High School student in the late 1960s. His entree to the rarified world of rockstardom came when he photographed and befriended a then-mostly unknown Joni Mitchell at the Second Fret, a Center City coffeehouse that was among Philly’s earliest counterculture music venues.
“I thought, ‘I really want to have a souvenir of this tour. So, I’m going to bring my Uhr cassette deck and get a PA feed and record these shows. It’s for me. It’s never going to become a bootleg album or something. It’s just so I can remember how cool it was.’
So I recorded 16 shows out of the 25 we did — it was a short tour, all in November,” Berstein told The Inquirer.
For galleries of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Prince, Jackson Browne, and many others, you can visit Bornstein’s website.
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Photos courtesy of Joel Bernstein Photography accessed from joelbornstein.com