This project is not about the Grateful Dead.
There are no "live" pictures that focus specifically on band members either in con
cert or as formal or informal portraits. Rather, this collection of photographs is an attempt to document the experiences of those who choose to call ourselves "Deadheads." Many
of us followed the Grateful Dead on tour for many years and were a part of
the community that was created in the process. As a work for and about Deadheads, my photographs attempt to document the sights, sounds, and scenes Deadheads all over the country have experienced as they followed the band. It is an attempt to document and
define what it means to be a Deadhead.
I look forward to incorporating your responses to these photos, as well as your recollections and ruminations about being "on tour," into the experience of this site.
On a personal level, during the
decade that I have been working on this project, trying to place myself within the work became its most challenging aspect. As a Deadhead, I always wanted to enjoy shows and hang out with my friends and extended family, but as a documentary photographer a
nd journalist, I was constantly trying to capture that experience to show how it challenges traditional definitions of family and community within a broader social context. However, this conflict worked to my advantage, for over the years I allowed my pho
tographs to flow naturally, giving them a vitality and energy reminiscent of the music itself. And so I learned an important lesson: When the images were forced, the results were usually flat and uninspired, occasionally disastrous. But when I allowed the
work to "proceed by its own design," the results could be stunning, even magical.
This is not simply a series of "pretty pictures" from tour that remain uncritical and devoid of editorial comment. Indeed, during the last few years of tour, there
was a darker side to the experience. An onslaught of new, more rowdy fans infiltrated the scene and threatened the vitality of the community. I have not avoided these issues in this work, but rather have attempted to capture them with as much emotion as w
ith some of the "happier" images.
At times, however, such images were simply not to be. At Deer Creek on July 2nd,1995, nature literally called, and I was in the bathroom when thousands of gate crashers jumped the fence during "Desolation Row." I rarely
ever went to the bathroom during the first set, and I decided that I was simply not meant to have images of this "riot." The work had decided on its own that this was not what it was about, and sent me away from my perch on the lawn, just 20 yards from th
e fence line.
In a similar vein, it was during the first encore at the last show in Chicago, as Jerry Garcia sang his last song--a prophetic version of the ballad "Black Muddy River"--that I was able to capture an image that I had been t
rying to catch for more than five years. So the magic flowed in both directions, it was simply a question of allowing myself to trust the images and where they came from and to realized that I was nearly a vehicle for them, and not them for me.
The music of the Grateful Dead and the culture grown up around it has brought people together for thirty years and forged friendships that transcend region, class, and time. I admit that my photographs celebrate Deadhead culture for what I consider its revolutionary and disruptive potential. Deadheads challenge the world as it is; their community is based on love for each other and love for the music. So I bring these photographs to you as a way of giving back something of what I've taken away.
I do so with love and trust and for your personal enjoyment. I have no objections to people downloading an image to put on the fridge or on the bulletin board by the computer. I don't even mind if you make tape covers out of them (feel free to send me a
set!), as long as they are for non-commercial, personal use and the enjoyment of you and your friends. This web site and all of the photographs are fully protected by copyright law. Don't rip them off.
This is the continuing series of images I
will post here for your enjoyment and commentary. Every several months, a new selection of images will debut. Please feel free to make suggestions about the work, and leave comments to be posted in the guest book so I can have a sense of how people are
responding. As I prepare to shop these images around to book publishers it is important for me to have your input and know what works and what doesn't work. After all, you are just as much a part of this work as I am.
I'd like to acknowledge the contributions of my many friends and
colleagues who have helped nurture this work as it has evolved over the last ten
years. They include: R Period, Trock, Johnny Quest, Steelboy, Diane, Donna,
Sher-Bear, Charles, Dona, Steve S. and Karen, Amitava, Steve W., Mike, Dilip, Scott, Rose, Elizabeth, Karen, and my former students from Journalism 3301. Many thanks to Dennis McNally and the folks at Grateful Dead Productions, David Gans, Toni Brown at Relix, the folks who thought up Deadbase for helping with a few set lists, and to Jamie from Michigan for filling in the blanks at a moments notice.
Thanks to Lesley and Daniel at the Attic Gallery, Charlie Mitchell and the Vicksburg Evening Post, Dr. Jazz, the Radiators, for providing live music for me to dance to; Dr. Rebecca Adams, and the staff at WWOZ-FM, New Orleans. Remember to keep the spirit of tour alive and try to save the planet by giving generously to the Rex Foundation or non-profit organization of your choice.
I would also like to acknowledge Bill Haber and the staff of the New Orleans
Bureau of the Associated Press for their on-going kindness, support
and generosity, David Oakes a
nd my former colleagues in Room B-44 at the
Minnesota State Capitol, Beth Willinger and the staff of The Newcomb College Center for Research on Women at Tulane University, the staff and membership of Impact Visuals, and the Institute for Global Communications in San Francisco (IGC), my mother, my
father (Willie) and JoAnne, and to all in my extended family and friends. Special thanks in the memory of Charlie "Love" Jacobs (1958-1997): go in peace my brother, you'll always be with us. Finally, I am very deeply indebted
to Crystal Kile for her on-going patience and talent in designing and mounting this web site, and for opening up a whole new world of possibilities for me. Without her, folks, I'd still be in the darkroom inhaling fixer.
A special than
ks goes to all my friends from Tour: Joe
from Chicago, Billy from Wisconsin, Tiffany now back in Chicago, John Bud from San Francisco, Allison, Cory, Lee, Dave and Elizabeth, Martha and Paul and Quinn (the Eskimo), Michelle, Jeff the taper, Jes and Craig
, Melanie, Big John, Randy, Ryder, and Molly (all from the Twin Cities and environs), Mark from Mill Valley, Mikey and Dawn, G-man and Olivia all from Novato, John and Eva from California, D
erek from everywhere, Candy from Evanston, Jim, Rick, Keith, Norbert and Birgit aus Deutschland, Rich from New York, Stu from Delaware, Jake the kind Wharf Rat burrito man (at large in
Alaska), Dave and Colette from Chicago, Roy and Judy of Overdorf Lake
Camp ground in Arcadia, IN, Susan and Natalie, several guys named Dave, and my own "Scarlet Begonia," Susanne.
David Rae Morris
May 11th, 1997 (the 19th anniversary of my first show!)
The Wheel is turnin' and you can't slow down
Can't let go, and you can't hold o
Can't go back, and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you, then the lightning will
P.S: Hey, why not listen to some tunes while you experience this
site? If yo
u have RealAudio 3.0, head over to
not, put these MIDI tunes from The Dead
Sled on in the background:
Begonias | Uncle John's
Band | The Golden Road
Return to Mainpage