Photographer Jay Blakesberg Appears On ‘Comes A Time’ Podcast

Jay talks his new book 'RetroBlakesberg,' shooting the Grateful Dead and more.

By Nate Todd Sep 30, 2022 11:04 am PDT

Renowned rock photographer Jay Blakesberg was the guest on the latest episode of JamBase partner Osiris Media’s Comes A Time podcast. Blakesberg chatted with hosts Oteil Burbridge and Mike Finoia about his new visual autobiography RetroBlakesberg, shooting the Grateful Dead and more.

The conversation got underway with Blakesberg talking about being at the recent Sacred Rose Festival and seeing “Philco,” the Phil Lesh & Friends lineup featuring Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline. He noted a special moment toward the end of the concert when the band performed the Wilco song “Via Chicago.” “It’s sort of a slow-paced, ballady sort of song. And I think at one point Nels took a chopstick or something out of his back pocket and he does this crazy feedback, intense, like ‘Viola Lee Blues’ distortion for 15 or 20 seconds and then just stops dead and it goes back into this very mellow…and he’s doing that and Phil just looks over at him and raises his eyebrows and goes ‘woah.'”

The discussion then turned to Jay’s new visual autobiography RetroBlakesberg, which was a project begun during the pandemic that grew from an Instagram account his daughter Ricki created focusing on his photographs shot on film. While Blakesberg is renowned for photos of the Grateful Dead and others in the jam band world, he also spoke about working with bands in the grunge and alt-rock spheres when the genres were new.

“In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was shooting the beginning of Soundgarden, Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, alternative rock. So the beginning of my career, nobody cared about the Grateful Dead, I still shot everything I could in the late ‘80s, but all the magazines — which is where we made out money and our bread and butter — all those magazines don’t exist anymore except for Rolling Stone and a handful of others, they were interested in what Soundgarden was doing. So for instance, in ‘92 I did this backstage photograph of all of Pearl Jam and all of Soundgarden at Lollapalooza. Now 30 years later, it’s a legendary epic photograph. But right at the time it was just these two up-and-coming bands.”

The conversation also touched on Jay’s photography techniques over the years including a discussion with Oteil on analog vs. digital in both the photography and music worlds. Jay also spoke about getting into the Grateful Dead and regaled Mike and Oteil with some of his favorite moments shooting the band and more.

Watch Comes A Time with Jay Blakesberg below:

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