"I wanted to succeed at something I felt passionate about," says Jay Blakesberg. "I worked really, really hard. I was a starving artist in my first years as a professional photographer -- shooting whatever I could to make a buck, living in a big house with six roommates, the whole nine yards. Little by little, I kept showing my work to more and more newspapers and magazines. There's a free weekly paper here in San Francisco, the SF Weekly, which is part of the New Timesfamily now -- at the time it wasn't -- that published a lot of my early work. Before you know it, magazines like Rolling Stone are calling. I've been shooting for them for over 15 years now."
One just doesn't expect that level of dedication and zeal from a Deadhead. The general consensus is, if it doesn't involve driving to a show, getting into a show, selling grilled-cheese sandwiches, and/or procuring drugs outside of a show, the diehard hippies have a certain level of apathy. But Blakesberg is proof of the wrongness of stereotypes. His recent book, Between the Dark and the Light: The Grateful Dead Photography of Jay Blakesberg, documents more than 20 years in the life of the Dead.
"In the early '80s, when I was starting to get into the Grateful Dead very seriously, that was a big focus in my life," Blakesberg states. "Going to a lot of concerts, traveling around the country to see them, and bringing my camera with me. At that point, my camera was really part of my personality. So 25 years ago, did I ever think, 'Hey, if the Grateful Dead sticks around for 25 years, I'll be able to do a book?' No. It never even crossed my mind. When I became a professional shooter in the late '80s, it still didn't cross my mind to think, 'Hey, I'm shooting this for my book someday.' It just wasn't on the radar screen."
And yet, when folks came a-calling for photos to use for a Grateful Dead calendar, Blakesberg began digging through his archive. The sheer number of pictures surprised even the photographer himself.
"Once I gathered everything together, I was like 'Wow. I've got 20,000-plus photographs of the Dead. There's a book in here."
So now, rather than following someone else across the country, it's Blakesberg who's on tour. The photographer comes to Borders Books and Music (9887 Glades Rd., Boca Raton) on Saturday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m. to sign copies of his book and talk about the gypsy lifestyle he pursued for so long and the career that sprang out of it. -- Dan Sweeney
The Palm Beach Photographic Centre (55 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach) launches its latest exhibit, "Herido de Sombras/A Broken Shadow" on Thursday with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. in which attendees can meet the artist, Kerry Stuart Coppin. The photographer's documentary-style prints include images from Senegal, Cuba, Barbados, and the United States. The images in "A Broken Shadow" attempt to address issues of African-American and black identity, particularly in rural areas. "A Broken Shadow" is on display through June 7. -- Dan Sweeney
Spring is in the air, and you know what that means: Time to get artsy-fartsy! Florida Atlantic University's Bachelor of Fine Arts exhibition showcases the works of graduating seniors in a variety of media. Approximately 20 students display the fruits of their four years of labor, ranging from graphic design to painting to sculpture. The exhibit is free and runs through May 1 at the Ritter Art Gallery on the FAU campus, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Call 561-297-2966. -- Audra Schroeder
Silence is Golden
The word "prodigy" may bring to mind visions of four-year-olds tossing logarithms around and whatnot, but you rarely hear about 15-year-old silent-film buffs and organ aficionados. Joseph Rubin provides the organ accompaniment for two classic silent films: The Mark of Zorro at 2 p.m., and The General, starring Buster Keaton, at 7:30 p.m. Rubin will also give a short lecture on the history of silent film. And, of course, admission costs 10 cents for the matinee and 15 cents for the evening showing. Finally, a night when you can enjoy someone playing with their organ in public. Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922 ext. 322. -- Audra Schroeder