It’s hard not to let your mind wander to iconic American imagery when you listen to the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. Front porches on a hot summer day; a country fair on Main Street; the wind in your hair on a long road — Springsteen’s songs paint a vivid picture of the country and its evolution.
But for Italian photographer Daria Addabbo, the songs are more than just images of screen doors and streetlights; she believes they are her American compass.
Addabbo, who is based in Rome, oriented herself in this landscape last year for her project “This Hard Land,” which will be published by Jaca Book next month. It was wholly inspired by Springsteen, who turned 70 on Monday.
“The aim was to picture his songs and the contemporary United States through them: the working-class condition, the middle-class crisis, the American Dream, broken but still alive,” Addabbo told In Sight. “The lyrics are a true manifesto of the American suburbs, with its characters ready to burn and run away with their dreams.”
Growing up in Italy, surrounded by music, Addabbo took inspiration in the medium’s ability to provide vivid images without imposing them.
“Listening to Springsteen was like looking at hundreds of movies and photo books,” she said.
Addabbo believes Springsteen shares a similar relationship with the stories in his lyrics as a photojournalist does to the stories they photograph.
“Despite not using the first person, there’s always his personality in the watermark,” she said. Songs, like the best images, capture both the reality of a circumstance, along with the emotions and atmosphere that surround it.
In the towns where Springsteen wrote his first lyrics 40 years ago, Addabbo found that while the stories and expectations have changed, the American Dream and its contradictions remain.
“There’s no such thing as an Italian dream,” she said. “There’s only the Italian delusion, where you feel like you’re moving, but you’re actually stuck in space and time.”
Becoming a photographer and completing “This Hard Land” has become Addabbo’s own version of the American Dream.
“Dreaming,” she said, “gave me the energy to go into photography.”
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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