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Image, Music, and Memory

I love my job because with each exhibition change, I get to work on something totally different. The past few months were particularly fun as I prepared for our upcoming Main Gallery exhibition Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock and Roll Photography. What could be better than sitting at your desk checking out photographs of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and Kurt Cobain?

Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, 1978

Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, 1978, by Frank Stefanko (b. 1946). Pigment Print on watercolor paper; 40 x 50 in. (framed). © Frank Stefanko.

It has been interesting to consider the power of these images, and how they connect to personal memory. Many people have stopped in my office over the past few months to glance through the photographs in the exhibition. Nearly everyone has had a strong reaction to at least one of the images, due to an association with a specific memory or time in their life.

A Frank Stefanko photograph of Bruce Springsteen on the cover of The River, 1980.

A Frank Stefanko photograph of Bruce Springsteen is used on the cover of The River, a crucial album in the musician’s career, released in 1980.

For me, Bruce Springsteen’s The River instantly makes me think of my dad. Seeing an image of the album cover in this exhibition immediately transported me to elementary school—probably around age eight or so. I have this vivid mental image of a cassette tape of The River sitting on the center console of my dad’s bright yellow 1975 MG. Nothing made me feel cooler than cruising around my tiny hometown in my dad’s MG with the top down, listening to Bruce Springsteen. I cannot hear The River without thinking of my dad, and I cannot see Frank Stefanko’s photograph of The Boss without hearing The River. The image, music, and memory are inextricably connected in my mind, and always will be.

My sister Angie and my dad in his MG, 1981.

My sister Angie and my dad in his MG, 1981.

So I encourage you to visit the Sound and Vision exhibition and see what memories come flooding back to you. You are sure to see some familiar photographs, and to leave with a tune stuck in your head. It’s a fun exhibition, and we have lots of great programs planned, so be sure to check our website for details. The exhibition opens on September 21—I hope to see you around the galleries!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

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