In the summer of 2022, photos of Bruce Springsteen leaning against his ‘69 SS Camaro took over the internet.
The Boss stands with one of his favorite cars — its convertible top stylishly peeled back — against the backdrop of the Carousel Building along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
What is not seen is the man behind the camera, Danny Clinch, who has shot some of music’s most iconic photos for over four decades.
Clinch’s work has appeared on album covers and “60 Minutes” specials. It’s seen in murals across the globe and featured frequently in most major publications, including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and The New York Times.
His list of notable subjects is endless. Names like Neil Young, the Foo Fighters, Johnny Cash, Beyonce, Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan barely scratch the surface of Clinch’s vast portfolio.
And yet, for a man who makes his living capturing the most sought-after figures in contemporary culture, Clinch remains astonishingly humble, seemingly unaware of his place in music history, even while capturing its biggest moments and the musicians who make them.
“When I was growing up, I was looking at things like Rolling Stone magazine and seeing these artists photographing the musicians I loved,” Clinch said during a recent interview with the Keys Weekly. “I went to a workshop with Annie Leibovitz and was invited to be an intern at her studio, which led to me being an assistant. I got to see how things were done right, under someone who’s obsessed with their craft as much as I am.”
That experience opened opportunities for Clinch, including his close relationship with fellow New Jersey native Springsteen, and it furthered what he calls “an obsession with documenting the artist and history.”
In addition to his success and infinite accolades as a photographer, Clinch is an accomplished writer and film director. His documentary work features dozens of subjects, including Ben Harper, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon and Jay Z.
On Thursday, Dec. 1, Clinch will be in Key West for opening night of the Coast is Clear Music & Arts Festival. The Tropic Cinema will host an exhibit of his photography and the San Carlos Theater will screen his 2018 documentary, “A Tuba to Cuba.”
The film follows the celebrated Preservation Hall Jazz Band on their journey to the Havana Jazz Festival, where Clinch brilliantly captures what he calls “a beautiful relationship among the music, food and culture of Cuba.”
Preservation Hall Jazz Band will take the stage for a live concert at the San Carlos following the film.
For Clinch, “A Tuba to Cuba” represents the reason he has dedicated his life to capturing notable musicians and their moments in time. He describes music as “the universal language” that bridges the gaps between cultures and classes.
Whether those moments occur while riding in a Cadillac with Neil Young on the way to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, or during a photo session with the late Tupac Shakur, Clinch has a way of humanizing the artists so many of us adore from afar. (Clinch tells the stories behind those musical moments in our recent podcast interview with him at keysweekly.com.)
“Everyone has a different route. Mine was to show people respect at every turn. If you do that, you get it in return,” Clinch said of his access to stars. “I hope the photography speaks for itself, but there’s a lot more to it than just the photos. They want their stuff to be documented and I’m sure they realize it’s their history.”
Coast is Clear founder Billy Kearins met Clinch at last year’s festival and the two quickly became friends.
“Danny was always a guy I looked up to from afar,” Kearins said. “He’s carved his own path in an industry that isn’t always kind or easy — rubbing shoulders with all of my artistic and musical heroes along the way.”
Kearins launched the Coast is Clear Music & Arts Festival in 2017 “in the wake of Hurricane Irma, as a way to celebrate the official end of hurricane season,” he said. “The mission has always been to highlight the island’s most important spaces by pairing them with world-class music and art to lift spirits after a slow and stormy time of year. Teaming up with local partners and institutions — Key West Art and Historical Society, San Carlos Theater, Green Parrot Bar, Tropic Cinema and Blue Heaven — reinforces the idea that community comes first, and the arts are still truly important here in Key West. Plus the lineup is amazing. The weekend will be one for the books.”
For more on Danny Clinch and his portfolio, visit dannyclinch.com.
Listen to the entire podcast interview with Danny Clinch at keys-weekly.com
The COAST is Clear Music & Arts Festival
Where: Fort East Martello Parade Grounds, San Carlos Theater, Tropic Cinema & other Key West venues
Who: Shakey Graves, Fruit Bats, Langhorne Slim, Hiss Golden Messenger, Preservation Hall Jazz Band & more. Plus a photo exhibit & documentary screening by iconic music photographer & filmmaker Danny Clinch. Tickets: Visit coastisclearfest.com for remaining 1-, 2- and 4-day passes.