Eyes of the World: Grateful Dead Photography 1965-1995

Josh Baron on November 15, 2017

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the idea for Eyes of the World came to me, but it was unequivocally born out of my time as editor of Relix. I recall thinking, “How can it be that there’s no big coffee table book of all the iconic Grateful Dead images?”

There were stellar single photographer collections and essential books that had photos and text, like Playing in the Band and Grateful Dead Family Album. Yet, there was no all-encompassing, image-driven book that put the emphasis entirely on the shots.

After calls with several major publishers, it became clear that, while there was plenty of interest, the only way that this book was going to happen was if I self-published. Two conversations later, Jay Blakesberg—a longtime friend, Relix contributor and legendary Dead photographer—agreed to partner with me to put it out through his Rock Out Books imprint.

I cast as wide a net as possible in searching for images. I reached out to more than a hundred photographers to request images for review. Once everything was in, Jay and I began the editing process of selecting the best submissions, while making sure that every year of the band’s 30-year run from 1965 to 1995 was covered. We ended up collecting 220 images by 61 photographers that we believe will stand the test of time as the definitive visual document of the Grateful Dead.

May 1966, San Francisco, CA

“This was back when it was fun,” Greene fondly reminisces about this iconic Dead image. “We were kids. There was no hassle of assistants or contracts to do a photo shoot.” For this portrait, Greene photographed the band as they walked the streets of HaightAshbury. “They gave you great opportunities; you just had to see them,” he says. “They really loved me and I never crossed them. I also always knew when to shut up and leave.” Herb Greene

June 16, 1974, Des Moines, IA

“I was 20 years old at the time,” recalls Katz of this image. “I had gotten a camera as a present the previous year and had started taking it to shows. I was never a professional photographer, but I’m glad I took pictures at the show because now I have these wonderful memories to look back on that I can share with other fans.” He still sends a group text every June 16 to the friends who attended the show with him. James Lee Katz

September 28, 1975, Lindley Meadow, Golden Gate Park

In pouring through every available resource for possible images, we came across Alvan’s name associated with some shots we’d found online. It was nearly impossible to find anything about Alvan, save for a three-minute documentary that filmmaker Doug Walker had made in 2016. In it, Alvan, a somewhat hermetic old man living in a rundown apartment, is revealed to be one of Bill Graham’s house photographers from the ‘70s. Walker helped facilitate getting us some of Alvan’s images, including this one of the elusive Owsley Stanley III with Phil Lesh. Lesh was thrilled to see this “unknown” image of him and his old pal. Alvan Meyerowitz 

March 20, 1977, Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA

“Winterland was an old rectangular ice rink with a balcony that circumnavigated the arena,” recalls Perlstein. “Once I discovered the part of the balcony that hung over the rear of the stage, it opened up a whole new world of photographic possibilities. It allowed me the freedom of shooting directly behind and above the band. It was just a matter of waiting for Jerry, Bob or Phil to turn around at the right moment and interact with the drummers. It’s a point of view rarely seen in music photography.” Ed Perlstein

May 7, 1977, Boston Garden, Boston, MA

Rolling Stone hired Simon to photograph the band for a cover story they were planning to do. “Given that the band hated having their pictures taken, Garcia liked my unobtrusive, fly-on-thewall style,” he recounts. “The magazine wanted a group portrait that I knew the band would hate doing. Nonetheless, after soundcheck, everyone piled into this tiny backstage dressing room, sat on a couch and we quickly realized there was nowhere for Donna to sit. I suggested—calling upon my vast experience as a family portrait photographer—that she try lying across everyone. Garcia’s gesture in the picture is him saying, ‘For you, Peter, I guess we’ll do anything.’” Peter Simon

May 6, 1979, Washington, DC  

“I was a month out from graduating from high school and went to Virginia and Maryland to see two Dead shows,” recalls Blakesberg. “After the Baltimore show, there was a giant ‘No Nukes’ rally on the front steps of the Capitol. I found a press pass on the ground, went backstage and ran into Weir and Brent Mydland. Brent had only played a few shows with the band at that point. This was my Almost Famous moment as it was my first encounter with a band member offstage. Relix published this photo shortly after I took it, and it was perhaps the first time Deadheads got to see what the new keyboard player looked like.” Jay Blakesberg 

June 1987, Club Front, San Rafael, CA

Out of all the undiscovered treasures we found, O’Neill’s shots were some of our favorites. This is an outtake from a Rolling Stone cover story he did. He was gracious (and trusting enough) to hand over nearly 40 proof sheets from this session that included portraits of all the bands members and many of their families. His photos, particularly of Mydland and Garcia, gave us chills. Michael O’Neill