How Danny Clinch Captures the Soul of Music in His Photography and Festival

Clinch and his Transparent staff have been preparing for this year's Sea Hear Now Festival, which takes place every September in Asbury Park.

Danny Clinch

Photographer Danny Clinch co-founded Asbury Park’s Sea Hear Now Festival. Photo: Justin Borucki

Just a few feet from the beach in Asbury Park—an area rich with rock history—the Transparent Clinch Gallery celebrates music icons.

The space displays countless photographs by Danny Clinch, a renowned music photographer who started shooting for SPIN in 1991. It helps that the Toms River native can add a personal touch when customers are browsing images of legends like Eddie Vedder, Tupac Shakur, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Neil Young.

“Every photo there has a story,” Clinch says. “It’s the photograph, but then it’s like, ‘How did that photograph happen? What were the things surrounding it that were of that moment?’”

For example, Clinch shot the cover art for Bruce Springsteen’s 2020 album Letter to You. The two were walking in Central Park when it started to snow, and Clinch immediately broke out his camera, as he often has throughout his career.

Bruce Springsteen's "Letter to You" album cover

Danny Clinch photographed the album cover for Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You during a snowy walk in Central Park.

He did the same in 1992 when high school friend Tim Donnelly invited him to meet Eddie Vedder at Lollapalooza. Donnelly had an interview scheduled with Vedder for the environmental group Surfrider Foundation.

Years later, the three remain friends. In 2021, Vedder’s band Pearl Jam even played at Sea Hear Now—a massive, annual, Asbury-based surf and music festival that Clinch and Donnelly cofounded. Clinch himself joined the band on stage.

Clinch and his Transparent staff have been preparing for this year’s Sea Hear Now Festival, which takes place September 16-17. They’re installing a Sea Hear Now section at his gallery, and curating art for a Transparent pop-up tent.

The tent sells art that festival musicians volunteered to make, and proceeds go to local charities. “That’s always really fun,” Clinch says, “because you discover people that you didn’t realize made art.”

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For a building dedicated to still images, Transparent Clinch Gallery features plenty of sound. With a small stage and instruments tucked into a corner, Transparent often hosts small concerts highlighting local bands. 

Since Clinch is so cozy with musicians at every level of fame, it’s not unusual for big-name bands to play pop-up shows at the gallery. The Head and the Heart and the Revivalists did that over the summer before a July 9 show at the Stone Pony. The likes of Nathaniel Rateliff, Gary Clark Jr., Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, and the E Street Band’s Max Weinberg have also performed at Transparent. 

“I forget that we’re basically there to sell my photography,” Clinch says while recalling how, after that July 9 show, members of the Head and the Heart and the Revivalists returned to the gallery for an impromptu jam session that went past 2 am.

This year’s Sea Hear Now festival is fronted by the acts including the Killers, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Sheryl Crow and the Beach Boys. It remains to be seen who Clinch will play with this year, but he’s already thankful for a lifetime’s worth of unforgettable memories. 

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