Jay Blakesberg

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Jay Blakesberg
Born(1961-12-01)December 1, 1961
Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States
OccupationPhotographer & Filmmaker

Jay Blakesberg (born December 1, 1961) is an American, San Francisco-based, photographer and film maker.


His suburban youth was spent mostly in Clark, New Jersey, where he first discovered a passion for taking pictures. As a young teenager, Blakesberg began taking his father's Pentax camera to local concerts.

The Grateful Dead performed at the Meadowlands in 1978 and was the first Dead show he photographed. A few years on the road with a group of people called Deadheads resulted in the beginning of a body of photographic work that continues to this day. The early 1980s found Blakesberg living in Olympia, Washington, where he attended the Evergreen State College. More intensive study and focus on photography and filmmaking led him to an internship doing corporate photography and video in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1980s. This is when Blakesberg started bringing his camera to every musical event he attended.[1]

In 1986, he became the house photographer at the rock club The I-Beam on Haight Street in San Francisco. This is where he began to photograph the birth of the Alternative Rock movement, shooting such bands as Janes Addiction, The Pixies and Soundgarden to name a few. During the late 1980s, the pace picked up for the number of Grateful Dead events Blakesberg was photographing.

In November 1987, with rumors of a free U2 concert in downtown San Francisco, Blakesberg got a call from Rolling Stone magazine photo editor Jodi Peckman to go and cover the event. This became Blakesberg's first published photo in the rock magazine. Since that first assignment, Blakeserg has shot over 300 assignments for Rolling Stone and has been published in print magazines from Time to Vanity Fair to Guitar Player as well as hundreds of other major magazines worldwide countless times. It was also during this time period that Blakesberg became staff photographer for BAM Magazine (Bay Area Music), and went on to shoot over 75 covers starting with indie rockers Camper Van Beethoven, and including artists such as Ice-T, Green Day, Primus, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.[2]

Most of the 1990s, Blakesberg was constantly shooting for print magazines and record companies, creating what is now an archive of 30 years of pop music icons. The late 1990s saw the explosion of the "Dot-com" movement in the Bay Area. Many of the most popular of the business magazines of the day were looking for an edgy look to cover these new "technology rockstars" and they turned to Blakesberg for his eclectic and original style of photography. Some of the magazines he shot for included the Red Herring, Business 2.0 and Fortune Magazine among many others. It was during this time that new "online" music magazines were founded, giving Blakesberg a new category of projects. The most prominent and one of the first of its kind was "Addicted to Noise"(ATN) founded by Rolling Stone magazine staff writer Michael Goldberg. Blakesberg became a frequent contributor to this new online magazine shooting artists such as Weezer, Phish, X, Radiohead and DJ Shadow exclusively for ATN. The commissioned assignments continued from music magazines and record companies, giving Blakesberg the opportunity to work with many well-known artists including Tom Waits, John Lee Hooker, Santana, Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson, Metallica, Talking Heads, Beck, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Dead Hot Workshop and many others.[3]

Just before September 11, 2001, Blakesberg secured a book deal to publish a coffee table book on his Grateful Dead archive. Published by Backbeat Books in the fall of 2002, this book resonated with Deadheads everywhere. Working on that book gave Blakesberg the inspiration to start his own book publishing company, which eventually was born as Rock Out Books. Under that umbrella, Blakesberg has either published or packaged over a dozen books of his own photography as well as other photographers and artists. Some of the books published by Rock Out Books include: To Defy the Laws of Tradition – A Photographic Archive of Primus and Les Claypool, Portraits from the Belly of the Whale by Michael Garlington, A San Francisco Love Affair by Gene Wright, and Traveling on a High Frequency, Blakesberg's 30 year retrospective of his music photography.[4]

In 2006, Blakesberg co-directed, with Bob Sarles, Phil Lesh & Friends Live at the Warfield, a live concert film featuring Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh with his band.[5] Blakesberg has also co-directed "MTV Style" videos for Third Eye Blind and ALO, as well as directed videos for Jackie Greene, Tim Bluhm, and the Kronos Quartet.

Since the summer of 2007 Blakesberg has produced and directed the live concert video at numerous music festivals including Rothbury, Lollapallooza, Summer Camp Festival, moe.down, Nateva Festival, Langerado and Mountain Jam. Working in conjunction with the iClips Network at these festivals, Blakesberg has directed the video for such artists as The Flaming Lips, Furthur, Phil Lesh and Friends, The String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers Band, moe., Umphrey's McGee and many others. In the spring of 2009 Blakesberg went on the road with the re-united – Grateful Dead original members calling themselves "The Dead" as their tour photographer and video documentarian. The photographs from this tour were used in a print on demand tour book series, while over 15 short films created were used to document and market the tour. Currently Blakesberg continues to document Rock and Roll culture photographically while exploring numerous video projects.[6]

In 2015, Blakesberg published "Guitars That Jam—Portraits of the world's most storied rock guitars" which explores the history of many of the guitars in the Jamband scene. Featuring images from live concerts and outdoor festivals, this volume captures the personal connection between artist and instrument. Along with the guitar's make and model, each image is accompanied by a story from the musician detailing the instrument's special characteristics, as well as its significance to them and rock history. Including photographs of Neil Young, Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio, Derek Trucks, and Warren Haynes to name just a few. Guitars That Jam features a foreword written by Warren Haynes and is an excellent photographic guide to the world of improvisational rock guitars.[7]

Album photography credits[edit]

partial list from AllMusic.com[8]

Concert films[edit]

Short form video[edit]

  • Ann Atomic, If the Morning Never Comes (2007)
  • Moonalice - Listen to those Eyes (2007)
  • Moonalice - Whiter Shade of Pale (2008)
  • Tim Bluhm - Spooked Cat Blues, (House of Bluhm - LP, 2008)
  • Third Eye Blind - Don't Believe a Word, (Ursa Major - LP, 2009) [co-directed with Dave Alexander]
  • ALO - Big Appetite, (Man of the World - LP, 2010) [co-directed with Dave Alexander]
  • Jackie Greene - Medicine, (Till the Light Comes - LP, 2010)
  • Jackie Greene - Shaky Ground, (Till the Light Comes - LP, 2010)
  • Kronos Quartet - Music from 4 Fences (2010)

Other producer / director credits[edit]

  • High Sierra Music Festival (2007)
  • Moe.Down Festival (2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Mountain Jam (2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Rothbury Festival (2008, 2009)
  • Summer Camp Festival (2008, 2009, 2010)
  • Langerado Music Festival (2008)
  • Widespread Panic Live from New Orleans - Halloween (2008)
  • All Good Music Festival (2008)
  • 10,000 Lakes Music Festival (2008)
  • Lollapalooza - two stages (2009)
  • Mile High Music Festival - two stages (2009)
  • The Dead (2009)
  • Jackie Greene Live from Radio Woodstock (2010)
  • Nateva Music Festival (2010)
  • String Cheese Incident - Red Rocks - LIVE Concert PPV (2010)
  • String Cheese Incident - Hornings Hideout - LIVE Concert PPV (2010)

Books published[edit]

  • Between the Dark and Light - The Grateful Dead Photography of Jay Blakesberg (2002)
  • To Defy the Laws of Tradition - A Photographic Archive of Primus and Les Claypool (2003)
  • Waking Up With a Placebo Headwound, 1987-2004 Images of the Flaming Lips from the Archives of Jay Blakesberg and Michelle Martin-Coyne (2004)
  • Grateful Dead Day Planner (2005)
  • Traveling on a High Frequency: Jay Blakesberg Photographs 1978-2008 (2008)
  • Hippie Chick: A Tale of Love, Devotion & Surrender (2015)


  1. ^ "Jay Blakesberg | Between The Dark And Light On Jambase". Jambase.com. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Jay Blakesberg celebrates 30 years of rock photography - A+E Interactive". Blogs.mercurynews.com. 2008-11-10. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  4. ^ "Jay Blakesberg: Waiting For That Moment on JamBase". Jambase.com. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  5. ^ "Jay Blakesberg". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  6. ^ "New book! Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead". Web Ink Now. 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-06. Retrieved 2015-05-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Jay Blakesberg | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-27.

External links[edit]