Rock Photographer’s New Book, Museum Exhibit Showcase Musical Greats

Jersey native Jay Blakesberg has been capturing such artists as the Grateful Dead and Joni Mitchell since the late 1970s.

Photographer Jay Blakesberg stands above Bono of U2, who is lying on the ground of a stage during a November 2021 performance

Photographer Jay Blakesberg captures Bono of U2 in a November 2021 performance. Photo courtesy of Jay Blakesberg

As a teenager, Jay Blakesberg borrowed his father’s camera to take pictures at concerts. He wanted memories to hang on his bedroom wall. 

Since the late 1970s, Blakesberg has photographed musical greats like the Grateful Dead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Joni Mitchell—enough images to fill more than a dozen books. Forty-plus years later, RetroBlakesberg: Volume One: The Film Archives accompanies his first solo museum exhibition, which opened at the Morris Museum on October 14.

Blakesberg describes his book as a visual autobiography, prompted in 2020, by his daughter Ricki, now 26. “[Ricki] wanted to curate a very specific RetroBlakesberg Instagram feed,” Blakesberg explains. The account now has [more than 22,000] followers. “She wanted to share with her generation…how rock ‘n‘ roll influenced fans’ clothing, as well as the musicians,” Blakesberg says. 

“There’s all this new music out there, and a lot of those bands were probably informed by the bands that I shot in the ’80s and ’90s. I think it’s important and interesting for people to make that connection of what’s happening today in 2022 to what was happening 40 years ago, and to see that visually.”

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