Patti Smith is a cultural and musical icon. From the heady days of the ’60s at the now infamous Chelsea Hotel up until she frequented the New York punk scene with her inflammatory spoken word work, she has always been the subject of photographer’s affections. Frank Stefanko was another admirer of Smith and the photographs he took of her provide a stunning reminder of her star power.
As detailed in his book Patti Smith: American Artist, Stefanko became infatuated with Smith after she caught his eye in South Jersey. He would go on to describe his first glimpse of Smith with stunning accuracy saying she was “mosey[ing] in like the bad guy walking into a saloon in an old Western movie.”
He would go on to capture her images throughout the end of the 60s and into the 70s where Smith would find her niche and go on to develop into the pillar of poetry and music we know and love today. During this time he would follow her form the Chelsea Hotel to the dark and dingy walls of Max’s Kansas City and in the book, released in 2017, he shares intimate and stunning portraits of the star as she began her rise to fame.
Take a look below at Stefanko’s work with Patti and the intensity of a woman destined and determined for great things.
All images are from Patti Smith: American Artist via Insight Editions. © 2017 Frank Stefanko