A Rock and Roll Legend Behind the Camera

Photojournalist, Jay Blakesberg a main contributor to Rolling Stone magazine, Time and Vanity Fair, is revealing his life story–the struggle of a high school student and how to overcome it. A speech focused on the importance of confidence and experience will be presented to the juniors and seniors of Ramapo High school on October 26th.

Jay Blakesberg was raised in Clark, a local suburban town in New Jersey. As he attended high school he was a below average student that fell horribly behind in most of the curriculum. He described the distress he felt while sitting in class, “I could never concentrate, my mind was always jumping around and I could never focus on one thing. I would get lost and never be able to catch up. Everyone just thought we were troubled kids with no intention of learning.” It wasn’t until later in his life that a diagnosis of ADD was established. Although he struggled, it was during this time as an adolescent where he found his passion in photography.

At the age of 17, Blakesberg attended a Grateful Dead concert in the Meadowlands. Holding his father’s film camera in hand, he began taking pictures of the iconic Rock and Roll group. This was his first time photographing the band, but certainly not his last. After high school, Jay enrolled at Evergreen State College where he furthered his study in photography and filmmaking. At one point considered a hobby, Blacksberg’s ability to capture people and scenery quickly turned into authentic, and renowned photography. During 1990 his career as a photographer became legitimized as he began covering events for Rolling Stone magazine. He specializes in the photography of capturing Rock & Roll. Allowing him to actively work with music icons such as Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, and the Grateful Dead. His photographs appear in major magazines distributed worldwide and are in print and online, frequently. The copious amount of pictures Blakesberg has produced allowed him to publish 13 coffee table books, displaying the array of artists he has shot.

Due to Blakeberg’s history of commissioned work, he is frequently characterized as a commercial photographer. Although he is well known for this type of photography he considers himself a visual anthropologist, “Anthropology is the study of humankind, documenting cultures such as tribes from Africa. Well, I have been culturally documenting a tribe of my own, a tribe of hippies for the last 40 years. During the late 70’s they were teenagers, […] I was photographing hippies when they first became hippies.” His excitement towards his work accurately reflects the confidence he has. It is said that confidence comes with age yet Blakesberg clarifies confidence must be present at all times no matter the age. He touches upon how the confidence he had in his abilities provided a structure to help him accomplish his ambitions, “I knew what I wanted to do, I always believed in myself every photo I took I had confidence in and you know what, when I look back at those pictures from 13-14 years ago, they suck. But that’s okay as long as you know its good.” Talk of confidence led into the conversation of his personal interpretation of success. He responded in a prideful yet humbling manner, “I am proud of myself. I know I have contributed to the overall happiness of the world. It brings meaning to my life, I am known for creating this body of work that created value in the world.”

Jay Blakesberg is speaking at Ramapo and Indian Hills High School in attempt to help teenagers strive to be different, push boundaries and take advantage of every possible opportunity. He also encourages parents and other members of the community to attend his night session at 7:30 in the Ramapo High School auditorium where he will discuss outside variables that influenced his journey as a photographer in a Rock & Roll setting.


By: Sara Williams ’18


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