The Happiness Quotient

Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star? Get Yer Camera! Jay Blakesberg and His Rock & Roll Photography Career

August 26, 2022 Thom Pollard Episode 108
Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star? Get Yer Camera! Jay Blakesberg and His Rock & Roll Photography Career
The Happiness Quotient
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The Happiness Quotient
Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star? Get Yer Camera! Jay Blakesberg and His Rock & Roll Photography Career
Aug 26, 2022 Episode 108
Thom Pollard

Jay Blakesberg, one of THE US’s most accomplished live music and pop culture photographer’s has released another self published book called RETRO BLAKESBERG: Volume One: The Film Archives (SEE THE LINK IN THE SHOW NOTES)....the book features highlights spanning the years from the 70’s into the early 2000’s when film was king, before the digital age, when a photographer WAS A PHOTOGRAPHER - from the first photograph he ever sold for $15 thru tours with Phish, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones

Tons of Grateful Dead - enough so that he’s made a couple books

Green Day,  The Flaming Lips,  Snoop Dog, Primus

If you want to purchase a copy of Jay’s amazing book or to have a look at his other published books and photo gallery, find him on Instagram at @JayBlakesberg and @RetroBlakesberg, or on his website at https://www.rockoutbooks.com/


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Show Notes Transcript

Jay Blakesberg, one of THE US’s most accomplished live music and pop culture photographer’s has released another self published book called RETRO BLAKESBERG: Volume One: The Film Archives (SEE THE LINK IN THE SHOW NOTES)....the book features highlights spanning the years from the 70’s into the early 2000’s when film was king, before the digital age, when a photographer WAS A PHOTOGRAPHER - from the first photograph he ever sold for $15 thru tours with Phish, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones

Tons of Grateful Dead - enough so that he’s made a couple books

Green Day,  The Flaming Lips,  Snoop Dog, Primus

If you want to purchase a copy of Jay’s amazing book or to have a look at his other published books and photo gallery, find him on Instagram at @JayBlakesberg and @RetroBlakesberg, or on his website at https://www.rockoutbooks.com/


Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Thom Pollard:

So you want to be a rock and roll star. We'll grab a camera and find your way to the front of the stage. Take your best shot. This is the happiness quotient. On that wisdom Kay. From the tough dance today. I never learned a thing be unhappy. Jay Blake's Berg one of the US is most accomplished live music and pop culture photographer has released another self published book called retro Blacksburg Volume One the film archives. See the link in the show notes how you can get to it. The book features highlights spanning the years from the 70s into the early 2000s When film was King, before the digital age when a photographer was a photographer from the first photograph he ever sold for $15 through tours with fish, filming Led Zeppelin Rolling Stones, tons of the Grateful Dead enough so that he's made a couple of books about it. Green Day The Flaming Lips Snoop Dogg Primus. You know, I never asked him if he's been to a wood brothers show, giving the requisite nod to my friends who have generously given permission for me to use their music for this podcasts theme song. Happiness. I got to happiness. Anyway, you get the picture, Jay has seen a lot of live music and taken 1000s and 10s and 10s of 1000s of photographs of just about every band you could possibly imagine. And I have them here today on the happiness quotient. What an honor as he releases his new book. I'd seen Jays photographs before but first became acquainted with his unique style and artistic talents in February of 2022. At Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, on stage with a band I've grown pretty damn fond of named goose there, he was mixing right in with the musicians taking photos right on stage, I thought to myself exactly the way I'd like to see myself doing it if I were a rock and roll photographer. As it turns out, Jay was there to capture the drummer then Atkins proposing to his girlfriend on stage after the second set in front of 10,000 fans. I filmed it on my camera from not too far from the stage. And there I saw Jay, getting the perfect shot. I thought I gotta reach out to that guy. I wonder what his name is. Comes to find out Jay and I are about the exact same age grew up and graduated from high school in the same year, sometime in the 70s 79 long time ago. Here's my interview with the talented, gifted, outgoing J Blake's Berg from his studio in San Francisco, talking about his beginnings and development as a professional live music and pop culture photographer. And about his just released book, retro Blacksburg Volume One, the film yours

Jay Blakesberg:

that goose Miss where you first saw me which was a holiday show that was postponed because of COVID from the holidays to the spring of 2022. I was there. If you remember Ben the drummer, proposed to his girlfriend now his fiancee onstage at the end of it, I think the first set or the second set. And Ben and I had become friends over the last couple of years. And he said will you come out to Connecticut and get the shot for a get get that shot of me proposing to Sam and Sam has also become a dear friend. And you know, before they got engaged when they were really early in their relationship, the three of us had gone out to dinner once and you know, just love those guys to pieces. I said of course I'd love to be there for that moment for you. And that's and I'm a big goose fan also. I mean, since I've been seeing them, you know, a couple years back, I was like, wow, I get to shoot, you know, Ben proposing to Sam and I get to see goose goose mess. So it was really, you know, for me it was great. And because I was really only doing you know, my assignment so to speak was banned. Like I turned those photos around quick because they want to do it but goose has their own photographer that is working with them and they get their stuff to the band right away. But yeah, that's the norm. You know, it's funny because when we used to shoot film or a social media didn't exist. camera I think around 2003 2004. But it wasn't till 2008 that I went fully digital. And for those first three or four years, while I was still shooting film, we were still delivering our jobs digitally. So we were shooting film, I might get the proof sheets back and send them to my client overnight, you know, using whatever FedEx UPS overnight whenever it was, and then they would give me an order of what images they want from the proof sheets. And then we would scan those and send them to that to the client, you know, digitally, the magazine, the record company, whatever it was, but that's not what we came to talk about. We can talk about retro Blake's Burg, which is my book. And all this film talking digital talk is because retro Blake's berg is based on an Instagram page that my daughter started during the pandemic called retro Blake's Berg. And she said came to me one day and said can we do a book called retro Blacksburg and the premise is that everything in that book and everything on that Instagram page is shot on film. And whereas I have my own Instagram page called J Blake's Berg and I post goose that I shot last month and you know, whatever it might be, but that's, you know, I post things I shot on film, I post things that I shot digitally. I post things that I shoot with my phone, you know, whatever it might be, it's just sort of like my ongoing blog. Whereas retro Blake's burgers curated by my daughter. I don't have much say into what she posts or when she posts or how she posts and and then we start on the book, she curated the book, you know, she said no, I'm not putting that I'm not putting that stupid fucking image in there. What are you fucking crazy, you know, like that kind of stuff. And so, okay, you're the boss. Leave me alone.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, you you raised a strong willed, confident young woman is

Jay Blakesberg:

yes. Yeah. So Ricky is very much involved in in all of my projects right now retro Blacksburg and and then on top of the retro Blake's burn book, which is even more exciting, is I have my actual actually have my first solo museum exhibition. And it's coming up in October, and that's called retro Blake's Burg captured on film 1978 2008. And again, it's all things that are shot only on film. And that's at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. And that's a Smithsonian affiliate Museum, the only only Smithsonian affiliate news Museum in New Jersey. And it's 20 miles away from where I grew up, and where some of these early photos that are in the retro Blacksburg book were taken. So it's pretty a big honor for me to have been asked to do this museum exhibit. And so the book and the mat and the museum exhibit are all sort of tied together. And in one big offering of you know, what I've been doing for the last 44 years, you know, taking pictures, although it stops in 2008. So really of 78 to 2008. So it's really 30 years of my 44 years, but I have my 44 years of eyes and experience helping curate that stuff with my daughter and working on that and making sure that those film images are scanned properly and retouch properly and, you know, proper exposure and color and all that and getting it out there. So

Thom Pollard:

beautiful, Jay. So you know, in your book retro Blake's for again, I almost went off on a tangent about going to a place 20 miles from where you grew up. I was wondering if any of your old buddies might play a trick on you and hand you a cup of juice or something and sit back and see if old Jay can handle it the way he used to back in the day drugs.

Jay Blakesberg:

You're talking about some juice that's got some psychedelics in it? Yeah, it was like cars, we can you know, like, you can't quit the mob. So, but ya know, I'm excited for my friends from high school and from New Jersey, to you know, come to this exhibit and Morristown in October, it opens on October 14, goes through into early February 2023. So if you're in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area, Pennsylvania, you know, put it on your calendar to come visit my solo museum exhibit,

Thom Pollard:

you know, Jay, in terms of that, that one of the things that I'm constantly drawn to when I talk to somebody that I've never met before, even people I know is what sparked the passion in them and what got them to pursue their craft. And, and I love that that moment in time. And it might be several moments when somebody feels a spark and they realize I don't care how many couches I have to sleep on or how long it takes me but I want to be Jay Blacksburg I want to be a rock and roll photographer. And you found a love of that really early. So you're 16 years old, you published your first photograph. So you had this spark and video you just honed in on it. And that's a beautiful story and I just kind of talk a little bit about that about finding something you loved and sticking with Nope, not gonna get a job and do the normal thing,

Jay Blakesberg:

right? Well, you hit the nail on the head in a lot of different places. So I do public speaking also, and I do a couple of different slideshows and talk about you know, I do a Grateful Dead slideshow, I do a more broad slideshow, I'm going to create a new one for retro Blacksburg. And one of the things that I talked about in my slideshow is really what you were just saying, which is that, you know, when you're 15, or 16 years old, 17 years old, really, all you have are your hopes and your dreams, right. And you don't even know what they are, what they mean, how to achieve them, how to tap into them. And so when I started taking photographs with a camera that I borrowed from my dad, it turned me on, and it did, it did ignite a spark. And I did have some passion for it, right. But I didn't know how to harness that passion. I didn't know how to harness that spark. But all these little things happen that sort of take that spark and turn it into a little flame and a bigger flame and a bigger flame. And so, you know, for me, some of the key things were in May of 78. We followed your MS. Limousine from New Jersey to New York City after a yarmulke concert at the Capitol theater.

Thom Pollard:

The Yama that Jay is referring to here is your cow cannon Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee of the Jefferson Airplane, and Hot Tuna fame.

Jay Blakesberg:

And I got a photograph of him that I sent to the letters of the letters to the editor of relics magazine, and they published it. And you know, back then, you know, getting published in print, let alone a magazine that you read cover to cover every issue was like pretty mega for 16 years old, 16 year old. And then when I was 17, the Aquarian weekly, which is a free weekly newspaper in New Jersey, published two photos of mine and a review of a dead show. I was 17 years old, and I got paid $15 for two photos, and it takes that spark and it makes it a little bit bigger and flame gets a little bit bigger. And you know, there's just different things that happen. But I remember one time I was up in upstate New York and there's in the retro Blake's for book, there's a whole bunch of photos that were taken and are in the book that are from upstate New York, one of my best friends from high school moved away. So at the end of sophomore year, and we used to drive up there the three, four hours on some weekends, a few weekends in the fall in the spring. And you know, do stupid things like because we live by the creative adolescence, stupidity, how much dumb stuff can you do to try and kill yourself without really realizing we were trying to kill ourselves. But we're lucky we're still alive, as are many people we know from that era. And I remember getting having a roll of film that was developed either in a lab or my basement or whatever it was. And I remember showing it to my friend Tommy, I'm like, Look at this negative Look at this cool shot. And he's looking at this negative and his eyeballs are rolling around in his head and he couldn't process it. Like it meant nothing to him. It was just like a piece of film that had things on it dyes and colors or, you know, silver or whatever it was. And to me I was like all spun out and how fucking cool it was right? And I remember that day like he's, he's like he just couldn't like and most people don't feel like, don't feel that way. So when we used to shoot film, when we got our film back from the lab, it turned us on man, like turned me on, like, I mean, when I got my jobs back from the lab, and I was like, oh my god, this is this is killer. This is great. It's in focus, it's exposed properly. It's, it's a great emotion. It's a great shot. It's great, you know, image of a dead head of Jerry of, of David Bowie of, you know, Soundgarden of Pearl, jam, Nirvana, whatever it might be, you know, like I was turned on, and I still get turned on when I take these photographs. And I look them up on the back of my camera on the viewfinder, which is a terrible habit. And I'm like, Ooh, cool. But when I bring them into my computer, and I see them on this 27 inch monitor, I'm like, yeah, man, like, I dig this shit. Like, it still turns me on. And really what it comes down to are those is that what you said is the passion. But there's another really, really key element to all of that. And that's the inspiration, right, and the inspiration for me happens with what's in front of my lens. So if I'm shooting deadheads dancing, or hippies dancing, you know, I was just recently at the Oregon Country Fair. And I was shooting these, you know, hippies having fun. And these are people, some of these people I've known for 30 and 40 years, you know, so they're my friends, and they were still grooving together. And I'm still documenting it, and it still turns me on to like, import this stuff. And I'm like, I can't wait to edit it and process it in the computer and export it and put it on Instagram or social media and share it because, you know, there's also that whole dopamine rush of people looking at it and commenting on it and having it relate to their lives. And so, you know, essentially, you know, these people and these experiences and these scenarios that I put myself in, are my muse, right, whether it's a hippie chick dancing, or a guy, hippie dude dancing, or a band playing on stage or traveling to Morocco, like I did a couple of months ago. Go and shooting street photography, you know, in a foreign country. And so all of those things, they still fucking turn me on and they they inspire me and, and it creates that burning passion and so it's all of those things combined. You know that spark turned into an inferno long ago, you know doing assignments for Rolling Stone magazine I shot shot regular assignments for them for 30 years. You know, so shooting for Rolling Stone and shooting covers for Guitar Player magazine and relics magazine and working with art directors and working with models and working with bands and working with record companies. You know, I mean, there's a new Neil Young album coming out in August I have the cover photo, right, you know, just found this out like about a week ago i No, they told me and announced it. And it's a live shot in Neil taken at the Greek theatre here in Berkeley a few years ago that it's a live record that he played with the Lukas Nelson promise of the real. And that's still like to me, I'm like, Fuck, yeah, man, I got a cover of the fucking Neil Young record, like, you know. So there still is like, all of that push that drive that inspiration.

Thom Pollard:

It doesn't get any better than that. That is awesome. I'm picking up that album. And I love and I've seen promise of the real with Neil Young and yeah, you know, I'm like, Well, at first time I saw him was 1980 something and he was rock. And then and then you figure ooh, I think it was 2019 when we saw the promise of the real

Jay Blakesberg:

Yeah. 2018 or 2019. I

Thom Pollard:

think Willie Nelson tour like, yeah, outlawed tour. Yeah.

Jay Blakesberg:

And I saw him in 1978. For the first time. You know, I mean, we, you know, we grew up listening to Neil Young and suburban New Jersey. I mean, that was one of our favorite artists and, you know, harvest, and, you know, all of those, you know, CSNY came out, you know, for Wall Street in 1974. And, I mean, I was in eighth grade. But you know, within two years, I was listening to that on a regular basis. So all of that music has informed our lives, you know, we listened to the songs, and they, they bring us back to those times in those places, when we were when we were younger, when we had, you know, different experiences with different people than let's say, our spouses or our children, or people that are our age now, like it brings you back. And, you know, it's the song, the lyrics and the music that that put us in a time and a place in our life. And so, you know, I first started listening to Neil Young, probably in 1976 7576. Song for the first time in 1978, I saw back to back shows at Madison Square Garden, Bob Dylan and Neil Young two nights in a row. going into my senior year high school I just started my senior year is the third week in September, the fourth week in September, the 27th, the 28th, or 28th and 29th of September 1978. Right, just starting my senior year, and you know, I'm seeing these legends, and photographing them. Here we are 4050 years later, 45 years later, and I've got the cover of the Neil Young record. And I've shot Neil Young for numerous magazine covers, and I've shot Neil Young, 50 or 60 times now, you know, so it's like one of those weird things that that, again, becomes part of the inspiration becomes part of the passion, part of the excitement. And part of the history of, you know, the body of work that I'm creating.

Thom Pollard:

So in that like you in the book, you break your book down into decades, essentially 70s. And it's really easy for me to read, because we're we grew up, went to high school, graduated high school, the same year, northeast, I'm a New England guy, but following probably the same bands and everything,

Jay Blakesberg:

and having similar experiences. And the you know, the one thing is, is neither of us had cell phones, we didn't have the internet. We just had our turntables in the radio, and our friends.

Thom Pollard:

That's what it was the idea of going up into my bedroom at the end of the day or after school, putting on tunes. So you talk about that idea of, of cars, you, you could have picked up a guitar and said I'm going to start a rock and roll band, I suppose here

Jay Blakesberg:

but I just couldn't make my fingers work on a guitar made just my brain didn't work that way. My brain and my fingers are not able. They're not in the same, same. They're not in sync with an instrument.

Thom Pollard:

But I guess you got the next best thing in a way. So you're right there, you're feeling the rush.

Jay Blakesberg:

Well, that's the other. That's the other big thing is that I'm always in the front row. That I love that. Because you want to be close to your heroes. You want to be close. And it's not even a matter of being close to your heroes or touching your heroes or, you know, it's about being it's about feeling the power that comes off that stage. When those people are singing the songs and playing those songs. And when you're closer, the experience is amplified. Right? I guess that's upon because they're amplifying their sound but experience is also amplified And, and I liked that feeling. I like that loud music. I like that pulsing bass, you know, pushing against my chest. You know, it's exhilarating, exhilarating and inspirational again, which is makes, you know, and because I've been doing this for so long, I can't go to a show and not take pictures, because all they see is pictures that need to be taken. Yeah.

Thom Pollard:

So that said, What is your when you go to a show? I don't know if you have any signature J. Blake bird kind of shots, you know, and I've noticed you you are behind the guy in the middle of the stage looking essentially through him, and people adoring him in the crowd. But do you have a plan or do you just go with the feel is a different

Jay Blakesberg:

flow. So the best advice I ever got for taking a photo at a concert was from my little league coach when I was 10 years old. And he basically said, anticipate the play, no matter where you are in the outfield. So if you're a baseball person, you'll understand this, right. So if you're playing second base in the field, and there's a man on first and a ground ball is hit to you, you throw the ball to second base to get the lead out, maybe get a double play. But if you're the left fielder, and there's a drop line drive hit to you that then there's a man on first you get it, you throw to the shortstop to cut off the runner from going to third. So no matter where you are in the field, everybody has a different play that they have to make if the play comes to them. So you have to anticipate the play, right. And that works for when you're shooting rock and roll. Right, you know, the music, you know, the peaks, you know, the valleys, you know, the lyrics, you know, the moments. And so you, you've gotta be, you gotta wait for it right. Now, I'm very fortunate because for the most part, not with every band, but for the most part, you know, most of the artists that I work with, I can shoot a whole show I can shoot from in the photo pit, I can shoot from onstage and the side of the stage, behind the band behind the drummer. You know, I've I've earned that, that access over the years, whereas a lot of photographers get three songs in the pit, and they gotta go, right. So a lot of times, you might be in a big rush to try and get one decent shot, but I have the freedom or call it to, you know, wait things out a little bit more and wait for those moments to come. And, and capture something that's hopefully, you know, more unique and epic than you know what you might be able to get if you're just shooting three songs. So you know, anticipate the play really is the key and be ready and not have a beer or a cigarette or a joint in your hand and have your camera close by and ready to fucking rock and roll, man.

Thom Pollard:

So just bring me back to that moment of film disappearing when you what was it like to take that leap? Because you said you said no way I'm gonna stay with the with the film because these digital images wouldn't even be looked very good on Instagram today.

Jay Blakesberg:

Right? Yeah. So you know, even the first few years, even the first three or so years of, you know, when I went full time digital in the last row of film I shot was in August of 2008, I believe it was Jack Johnson. So late 2008, I go full time digital, you know, we're still shooting with, you know, not full frame full sensor cameras. So even those first three years or so we have small files, they're not as great as you know what we shoot with now. But, you know, I'm 60 years old, I had to learn a whole new set of skills, right, you know, I was used to a workflow that involves, you know, shooting film, having certain technical and creative skills that worked with film and then translating that to a new technology. You know, I have kids that are 26 and 28 years old, and they grew up with, you know, with a cell phone in their hand as a pacifier and iPads to play games on and, you know, they they are able to navigate that technological world. But you know, for us, and you'll understand this, you're my same age, like we said, you know, we watched Star Trek and, and a cell phone, which is essentially a supercomputer in our hands. You know, it was the tricorder back then on Star Trek that could heal somebody or take a reading or whatever it might be. It was just a science fiction fantasy, right. And so, you know, for us to, you know, figure all of this technology out and figure out that learning curve. It was big, it was huge. I mean, one of the things that benefited me is that when I started making that big transition from film to digital, I had a young kid that was working for me. He started working for me when he was 18 years old, or nine to 18 or 19. And he worked for me For 11 years ago, he was in his early 30s. And, you know, and he taught me a lot he grew up with, he grew up coding computers, and, you know, writing programs and, you know, even I grew up on the farm in Kansas, that's what he did. So he taught me a lot and brought me up to speed in a big way. And, and I've grown in increments, and, you know, different people that have worked with me since then have taught me things and I taught them things. And you know, you have the internet to teach you anything, right? If you can't figure something out, there's a YouTube channel that will tell you how to do it. Right. The world Whoa. So I made that transition. And it was not easy. And also, you know, not only from a technical standpoint, but from a creative standpoint, the early digital cameras, I didn't like the way it looked. That's why I was never a filmmaker in the early days of video, because I hated the way it looked, you know, early video that look like you know what it looks like when you watch the soap opera. Yeah, on TV was that very flat, very pixelated, you know, pixel looking, flat, lit. Video style, I didn't like that. So I didn't really do any filmmaking until you could get things to happen that looked a little bit more film like, and so early on. As a digital shooter, I spent six months with my digital guy, the young kid, and we tried to figure out ways to make our digital photographs look a little bit more like film, we added noise and grain and filters, and created a filter pack that sort of gave it its own unique look. And I wasn't not the only one that was doing it. But I found something that I liked. And then within 234 years, those were just all basic sliders in Lightroom. You know, they were they were idiot. Effects, right? We spent months and months and months in Photoshop, developing this on our own. But of course, technology is the great, you know, the disrupter it is that. And so the young kids now can come in and slide a couple of levers in a program and, and get a look. And so we were trying to figure out what our place in the script was? And how did how did our work my work? How can it be original and unique moment now we're all at the same cameras with the same sensors with the same three lenses. Whereas when we shot film, we could shoot black and white film color film, fast speed film, slow speed film, high grain film, 35 millimeter, two and a quarter six by seven, four by five panoramic, right all of these different formats and films and styles and looks and feels. And that's how we developed our our AR AR style. You know who we are like a year I see you have a guitar behind you. You figured out what your style is by playing around with it right. And so we did the same thing. And but you got to continue to evolve as the technology changes, because now you can play that guitar without ever touching a string. You'd lay it on a computer with a plugin and whatever, right? Yeah, virtually. So you know, we always we always tried to come up with a different look and feel than what people were doing. I tried to be original. Sometimes I went over overboard and over the top a little bit. And there's photographs that I took early on in my career with a digital camera that are essentially garbage today. They're two three megabyte files. And they're not somebody saw and said, Oh, can I get a 16 by 20 prints, I can't really do it because it doesn't have the resolution. So those first three years even Well, the first three 2003 Four or 567 I would say that 90% of that stuff, but I was also shooting digital film at the same if it was important I would shoot film. Yeah. But if I needed to turn something in quickly, I would shoot digital and film or just maybe digital on some stuff. And a lot of that we didn't know what a raw file was we didn't know what an uncompressed file was back then we had there was the learning curve. So there's a lot of stuff that I shot that's essentially worthless. And we also didn't know how to store it. We didn't know how to keep track of it. We didn't know how to back it up. And so you know, we've lost 1000s of early files to computer illiteracy, stupidity uncertainty.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, I've I've read that you had lost or you said early before we hit record about losing a hard drive or something and I've lost more hard drives than I care to admit and I remember the conversion still shooting on either really good tape or 16 millimeter film and just not buying into the digital world. And now of course it would be almost impossible for me not to dance and everything but on that so did you keep all your old gear? Were you a wide angle lens guy in that you've got let's say on a good day if you if you thread the film, right? You got 34 exposures or 36 exposures. And you go click, click, click, click now on a digital, you can just hold the button down and shoot 100 in about two seconds. So it's a diff. It's really different. Did that change your style?

Jay Blakesberg:

Yes and no. So a couple of things. Yes, I am a wide angle guy. Yeah, always, always happen. And the reason for that is, in order to get a good picture, and you got to be right next to the person you're shooting, I have a photographer friend who used to always shoot with a 300 millimeter lens when he was allowed in the photo pit. And he would go back a little bit further, and he liked that compression. And he liked that shallow depth of field. And I was right on top of that person with a 24 millimeter lens or a 35 millimeter lens because I liked to be in their face. I mean, I remember Fish's manager back in the day, saying you're taking too many pictures with your fisheye lens, take less fisheye lens photos, and I think I put my fisheye lens down right around that time and just never picked it up again. Because I had shots. That's what I was known for. That was my style. I shot so many bad portraits with a fisheye lens. Yeah, up until about 99 2000. And Jason, the manager of fish was like enough with the fisheye lens. And I just stopped, I was like, Okay, that's all I needed to hear. And it forces you to be creative in other ways and come up with other solutions and play around with different things. But I've always been a wide lens guy, I like the look, I like the feel I like when you're vertical, how it stretches people. So when I was a film shooter, I was always a way heavier shooter than most other people. Like I can remember back in the day when I only got three songs in a photo pit. And we'd walk out at the end of three songs. And, you know, somebody said, how many rolls of film to shoot, I'd be like, 10, they'd be like, what? And then I'd be like, how did you get there, like one and a half. And so this is my philosophy is that if I'm at the Fillmore in 1996, in San Francisco, and I'm shooting the Foo Fighters on December 11 1996, I don't know if that's the date, I will never, for the rest of time, be at the Fillmore on December 11 1996, shooting the Foo Fighters. So if I can shoot 10 rolls of film, I'm going to shoot 10 rolls of film. That was my philosophy. And that is done me very, very well. And I'm not saying that it's because I have quantity, but it's a combination of quantity and quality. And so, you know, there's somebody that might just be like, Hey, I got one good shot, you know, but I might get 10 good shots or 20 good shots, because I'm shooting 10 times as much as the person next to me is shooting. And and the other thing is, is that 99% of the time, I was on assignment from a magazine or a record company, and they were paying for my filming processing anyway, and I owned it so I could shoot as much as I want and then keep it you know, so that's why I was always a heavy film shooter. And then digital came along. You think I was a heavy film shooter, I might shoot three or 400 rolls 300 or 400 frames at a concert. You know, most concerts now that I'm shooting, and that's in three songs. Most concerts now that I'm shooting a whole show. I'm shooting anywhere from 2500 to 3500 images. And I look at every one of them and it drives me insane. And I don't know how to stop. I can't figure it out. The still heavy shooter. Yeah,

Thom Pollard:

I agree with that. That tactic. J so you said that you know when you are at Radio City Music Hall you were in town so you probably just called somebody you knew at goose and say, Hey, dude, I'm gonna be in town, give me the pass and you kind of do your own thing. And then again on at goose miss with Ben. But nowadays do you saw you called up or people soliciting you like we need Jay here for this.

Jay Blakesberg:

I mean, I get hired for festivals and shows. And you know, it's a different it's a different market than it was because a there's a fraction of the number of magazines out there, that there were when we were growing up and the magazines were numbered in the hundreds and 1000s. And I was published in magazines on a weekly basis around the world. You know, my work was syndicated by different agencies in different countries. And, you know, I have pictures that would be in Tokyo and Germany and Italy and the United States and Canada and Mexico and blah, blah. And so yeah, so I was getting commissioned. Yeah, bands still hire me management companies still hire me. Festivals still hire me record companies still hire me. Oddly enough, I'm still somewhat relevant, I guess, as a photographer. So I feel fortunate that I still get to do what I do. And I feel fortunate that I actually believe that I'm still taking good photographs, and I'm still I haven't I haven't lost it yet. Could happen any moment now. So you know, we never know. But I think part of that is going back to our first conversation, which is the inspiration and the passion that's just all encompassed saying, that gives me that drive to create, you know, the, the best photographs that I can. You know, and jokingly I've, you know, been around young kids sitting next to me and I'd be like, they're like, you know, you're working so hard. I'm like, Well, I got to figure out a way to smokey, somehow, you know, your 25 year old kid. And of course, it's just a joke, you know, but I'm still holding my own, and then still coming up with interesting good images, I don't think I've quite, you know, we should autofocus. Like, I don't think if we were still shooting film, I'd be able to keep you know, with manual focus. I mean, I was shooting people jumping on stage manual focus, you know, catching these gravel moments, like, you know, focus exposure, you know, exposure without looking at a viewfinder, right, knowing what you're, you know, just, you know, moving at the speed of light to capture lightning in a bottle. And so all that training has come in handy. And I can, I can move pretty quickly with my gear and have good agility and whatnot. But yeah, that's it's it's always a shift, you know, that shift from film to digital? For sure. Yeah.

Thom Pollard:

Jay, thank you. Oh, by the way, the on those older shots as somebody jumping on the stage and not having the pleasure or the the benefit of focus, I actually like those. I like that movement, the oh, it just looks like it's a blurry almost I, it's a great

Jay Blakesberg:

people get too caught up in blur. And you know, motion blur is very different than a photograph that's out of focus, right? Yes. No motion blurs, you know, and again, it comes down to messing around with shutter speed, and aperture, and ISO, and all of those things that sort of combined give you the magic of using your camera as a creative tool, right. So like, I always say, you know, learn the rules, learn them thoroughly understand them completely, and then break them. Right, no risk, no reward, you got to take chances, you're just gonna end up with the same stuff that everybody else does. So but you know, going back to the book, retro Blake's, where you can sort of sort of also see an evolution, like you said, at 70s 80s 90s 2000s. And there's an essay that I wrote at the beginning of each chapter that sort of talks about what I was working on. And you know, where my mindset was, and how I worked as a creative person, and who I was working with. So all of those things are talked about in this book. And you can sort of see the evolution of me, going from a kid with a camera, to a flash on my camera, doing snapshots, to actually creating interesting photographs to learning how to develop my craft, and develop my style and my vibe to you know, making it work for me on a commercial level. And, you know, moving forward creatively, to create interesting photographs that hopefully inspire other people and other photographers, and even just the people that are looking at them in the book, to walk away with something, you know, I get a lot of comments, you know, the cover of the book as a picture of a woman taken at the rainbow gathering in 1984. And looking at this particular photograph, and the way that everybody's dressed, this probably could be 1974 684 94 2004 2014. You know, and so, I'm trying to create images that are timeless, but also photographs that take you back to that time. So you're looking at the book, and if you're our age, and you look at these photographs from the 1970s, you're most likely going to think that was my life. I hung out with that dude with a bandana on his head, like that's who you know, those were my people, we smoked weed, we did bong hits, we got fucked up on alcohol and weed and, and stumbled around our parents houses to hide it from them so that they didn't, you know, put us in the mental institution because we smoked pot because back then that's what people thought you're smoking marijuana, you must go to the mental institution. And so, I think the book, I like to call my the new book, retro Blacksburg in a visual autobiography, right? You know, people have asked me, When are you going to tell your story? And I did. You know, there's about I wrote about 40 I wrote about, there's four essays I wrote about 10,000 words in the book. There's about 10,000 words in this book that I wrote. So that's like a really couple of long long magazine articles, but I you know, I was trying to I was trying to share how I how I felt what I was doing what was inspiring me where I was the trials and tribulations of being a kid trying to figure out his place in the script and growing up and seeing the Grateful Dead and you know, and then getting a chance to work with the Grateful Dead and seeing Santana and getting to work with Santana. You know, things like that. So I've been very blessed. And there's, you know, there's photographs in there of Nirvana and Pearl jam in the chili peppers in Jane's Addiction and the Butthole Surfers, but there's also pictures of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Radiohead and The Flaming Lips. And speaking of The Flaming Lips, you know Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of The Flaming Lips, he wrote the foreword for the book and Michael frog day and from the band spearhead, dear friend for over 30 years now, both of them Wayne and Michael I, I first shot Wayne Coyne in The Flaming Lips in 1989. And I first shot Michael Franti in his band back then, the beat MiGs in 1987. So I've got a 35 year relationship with Michael in a 30 to 33 year relationship with Wayne. And so Michael wrote the introduction, Wayne wrote the foreword, and I love what they wrote, you know, and then there's my essay, and then my daughter who curated it wrote a short essay. And I think there's a lot of information both visually and in the written word. And it's not something that you get bogged down with, you know, you can probably read the whole entire thing in one sitting of, you know, an hour or two. And, and I want people to see how my career evolved, how my life evolved, how I got from point A to point B to point C, and how I ended up here and so I you know, this is not a book about the Grateful Dead. It's not a book about one particular artists, it's about my experience, and photographing all of those artists because they're all in the book, right? It's not just a Jerry Garcia book, which is my last book and for those you guys looking to buy a book, if you want to order a signed copy directly from me, you can just go to rock out books.com And and that is, that's where you can find retro Blake's Burg and some of the other books that I've done. This is my 16th Coffee Table Book of My Music, Pop Culture photography. Oh, yeah. So I've done books on The Flaming Lips. And I've done books on the Grateful Dead and I've done books, you know, with compilation books and some festival books and the ban on a band called The mother hips. And I did a book called guitars that jam, I did a book called jam, I did a book called hippie chicks. So there's, you know, I've got a bunch of stuff that I've done. And so this is, and I self publish all these books, I don't have a publisher, I do it myself. You know, again, sweat, blood equity, you know, you know, sweat hard, hard work, hard labor, long hours, and my own money. I'm putting my own money up into this, you know, like, I I've done a couple of books with a publisher. And I found that self publishing was the route that I wanted to take. And so I learned how to make books. I learned how to promote books, I learned how to get books into bookstores and on Amazon, and my daughter run that company. It's called Rocket books. And that's the website rocket books.com. You can check out retro Blacksburg and and actually, the, you'll see if the if a book is sold out, it's not on there anymore, like jam is sold out. Right? I did a book on the 50th anniversary, the Grateful Dead at the fairly well concerts in Santa Clara and Chicago. And we are down to about our last 75 copies of that book. And that's it, it's gone. Now never be reprinted. I did a book a couple years ago, four or five years ago called eyes of the world. Grateful Dead photographs. 1965 1995. It has 60 different photographers in it. I published it through my company. I had the most photos in the book, about 25% of them in the book were mine. But we had people like Jim Marshall and Baron Wallman and Annie Leibovitz. And that book is 100% sold out, you cannot find it anywhere, but used, you know, on the on the US black market. And so that looks no longer on the website. But you know, the ones that we still have available, check out at Rock ebooks.com And, you know, support small independent book publishers. I mean, we're like a small independent record label, right. You know, we make boutique products, we put out maybe one or two things, you know, every two or three years. We try and help other people get their material out. I'm working on a book project with David Ganz, who's a author, photographer and deadhead. I'm working on a book on Grateful Dead tattoos with a tattoo artists here in San Francisco. And so we do this with with you know, with our publishing company, we're gonna book a street photography of San Francisco street photographs with a photographer here in San Francisco 73 years old and was brilliant in the 70s and 80s when this camera on the streets and that will come out in 2023 I believe at the end of the year. And so you know, we live eat and breathe photography here in the studio and love every minute of it. It's all inspiring, you know, sometimes a little bit overwhelming, but it's, it's, I love it. I'm happy that I get to do it. I feel very fortunate that this is my life that I created. I took that little tiny spark and turn it into a little flame and a bigger flame and and, you know, a fire a forest fire without hurting anybody, you know, no trees No trees were harmed in this in this forest fire.

Thom Pollard:

Jay, thank you see you at the next gig. If you want to purchase a copy of Jays amazing book or have a look at his other published books and his photo galleries find him on Instagram at che Blake's Burg. He spells that de la KESBERG and retro Blacksburg or at Rock out books.com For more information about me to inquire about personal coaching or public speaking in person or online, visit eyes open productions.com or join my mailing list Tom dot dharma.pollard@gmail.com Thank you wood brothers for the use of your amazing song happiness Jones and to Kevin Calabro, their publicist for making it happen and thank you for visiting the happiness quotient come back soon and I will see you all real soon.

The Wood Brothers:

All of my answers came in say dragon attained again happy peace and quiet to get happy dragon when it comes back to happiness joy happiness Happy Happy, Happy happy happy Happiness