The godmother of punk, Patti Smith, was photographed by her longtime friend, the photographer Frank Stefanko, from the mid 1960s to the 1980s during her most transformative years as an artist. In a series of portraits featured in Stefanko’s new book Patti Smith: American Artist, published today by Insight Editions, we see the singer in her bare New York City studio with her guitar, posing in a washed-out Keith Richards tee, or dragging a microphone stand between her slouchy black boots onstage. Prior to this release, many of his images had never been published.
Smith and Stefanko met at what is now Rowan University in New Jersey, having both pursued studies in fine arts. Though Smith went on to collaborate with the likes of Andy Warhol, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, their paths continued to intersect, as Stefanko also photographed many of those stars. His images focus on Smith’s blue eyes and play with shadows on her angular face.
As the series shows, Smith’s evolution at this specific point in her career was synonymous with her many hairstyles — she chopped away layers and rough angles as she moved from West 23rd Street to Greenwich Village to the East Side. In the ‘70s, she went from performing spoken word at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project to releasing her groundbreaking album Horses, in 1975. At the same time she transformed the biker club CBGB into a niche music venue, establishing it as the birthplace of punk.
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