After successfully debuting last fall not far from his New Jersey hometown, Jay Blakesberg will bring his RetroBlakesberg photo exhibit to his adopted hometown of San Francisco. RetroBlakesberg: The Music Never Stopped opens at The Contemporary Jewish Museum on August 31st and runs through January 28th, 2024.

What began as a quarantine-era passion project for Jay’s daughter Ricki, also a photographer, has grown from an Instagram account (@retroblakesberg) into a coffee table book and now a museum exhibit. Comprised of over 210 photographs spanning from 1978–2008, the gallery features highlights from Blakesberg’s era of exclusively using film. Among the subjects are some of the most influential musicians of our time including the Grateful DeadJoni MitchellNeil YoungBob DylanCarlos Santana, and many more.

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Beyond the big names, RetroBlakesberg documents the evolving culture around the live music world. Through the years, observers can see changes in fashion, technology, and the world at large as Blakesberg documents the signs of the times.

“100% I see myself as a visual anthropologist, and I see myself as a historian, because I think that this is pop culture history,” Blakesberg told Live For Live Music ahead of the initial opening in Morristown, NJ, 25 miles from where Jay grew up in Clark. “And I’ve been documenting with a camera now for 44 years. And I’ve been able to successfully hold onto all of that material, still have it, still have the original negative, still have access to it, have the ability to scan it and bring it to life from an analog world to a digital world and share it in new ways.”

While it was the Grateful Dead that took Jay westward, his musical world soon opened up as he saw new cultures emerge in the ’80s and ’90s. Capturing the forefront of the grunge and alternative scenes that grew out of the West Coast at that time, he formed early bonds with bands like SoundgardenRed Hot Chili PeppersThe Flaming Lips, and others that were turning on a new generation.

“The more I see of Jay and his work, the more I realize how much his early life looked like mine,” Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne wrote in the introduction to the RetroBlakesberg book. “I say ‘looked like’ because I can see it in his photos. Even though he is not in many of the photos, I can see his life. His story is right there in the pictures he has taken of others, not in pictures of himself (which is how most people see their years go by). In capturing the people, places, and vibe of a given era, Jay’s photos provide a visual record of that time—the world as he sees it and saw it, and perhaps as others who lived it experienced it. So, today, when Jay’s photos show up on the RetroBlakesberg Instagram, or in a book like this, everyone gets to see his history (my history) unfold.”

RetroBlakesberg: The Music Never Stops opens at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on Thursday, August 31st. Visit the museum’s website for tickets and more information. Check out a selection of photos below. Revisit Live For Live Music‘s 2022 interview with Jay about the project here.