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Famed rock photographer Mark ‘Weissguy’ Weiss captures ‘The Decade that Rocked’

By Kylie Cordell For Clay Today
Posted 3/16/23

JACKSONVILLE – Gallery 275 will welcome the famed 80s’ rock n’ roll photographer Mark “Weissguy” Weiss for a remarkable photographic journey through March 26.

The …

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Famed rock photographer Mark ‘Weissguy’ Weiss captures ‘The Decade that Rocked’


Posted

JACKSONVILLE – Gallery 275 will welcome the famed 80s’ rock n’ roll photographer Mark “Weissguy” Weiss for a remarkable photographic journey through March 26.

The “Decade that Rocked” transports viewers back to when music was louder, spandex was tighter, and hair was bigger. Yep, we’re talking about the 80s.

Weiss was a 14-year-old kid from New Jersey when he made a deal with a neighbor to cut his lawn in exchange for a 35-millimeter camera. Thus began a lifelong journey of rock and roll mayhem that continues.

“As a kid, I used to go to concerts with my brother. So I would tag along and meet all the people. That’s just what we all did back then,” he said.

While in high school, Mark snuck his camera into concerts, paying off security guards to get him closer to the stage. After developing prints in his parent’s bathroom, he started selling illegal prints out of his school locker and in front of the concert venue for a buck a piece.

After being arrested outside of Madison Square Garden and spending the night in jail, his peddling days were over. A week later, Weiss walked into the offices of Circus Magazine, the leading rock publication at the time, with his portfolio. Circus published a centerfold of Weiss’s photo of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith in their October 1978 issue. Within a few months, he became a significant contributor to the magazine and soon became a staff member, shooting covers and features.

His photography takes a life of its own, a style he calls “smoke and gels.” You can almost smell the sweat, the cigarette smoke and Jack Daniels backstage. It’s fast-paced, chaotic, gritty, and surprisingly intimate. Weiss captures what no one else ever has, the moments that no one else sees.

The gallery will feature rock legends such as Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Van Halen, and many more. Weiss will appear at Gallery 725 on Saturday, March 25, and Sunday, March 26, to greet fans and talk about the history behind his classic photographs.

“People want to know about my favorite work shoot, the craziest shoot, and I have answers to all of them. They want to hear the stories, my story, but what they want is a little insight into the artists, the ones that I am photographing, because I have a different relationship with the fans because I am hands-on with them.”

The legendary bands of the 80s touched on something timeless. Their larger-than-life personalities made them enduring figures across the generations. Behind the dramatic makeup and stage costumes, they are almost godlike. While their on-stage persona never fails to impress, Wiess was more interested in capturing their backstage presence.

“On stage, they are like gods, you know? They dress like gods. That’s their personas. But backstage, they are just regular people with regular emotions,” he said.

“I just want to capture them when they don’t know I am capturing them. In the studio, you are creating their persona, whether that’s going to be on a magazine cover or an album cover. They are almost like actors. Backstage, you want to capture the emotions, the human side.”

One of Weiss’s classic photos features Ozzy Osbourne, the “Prince of Darkness,” dressed in a pink tutu for Circus Magazine in 1981. It is a shoot he will never forget.

“My First Shoot with Ozzy, I was only 21 or 22. I photographed him in a pink tutu with red boxing gloves,” he said. “It was a combination of both of our ideas. We dubbed him most athletic because he used to jump around on stage a lot, and so I thought it would be a good idea to bring boxing gloves and Ozzy decided to pick up the tutu and the red cowboy boots.”

The cover was supposed to be in black and white, but the magazine editor, Jerry Rothstein, liked the original so much that they put it on the cover. “We got a lot of attention for it,” Weiss said.

To this day, Weiss continues to photograph Ozzy and on tour his family. He stays in touch with many of the band members from his career.

“I look at this job as a way to make friends. So 80% of people that I shot in the 80s who are still with us, I’m still friends with whether they are playing in full stadiums or little clubs,” he said.

Weiss’ connections with the bands and their managers led to album cover shoots, including the famous Bon Jovi album “Slippery When Wet,” Twisted Sister’s Iconic cover “Stay Hungry,” and more.

“We had a great time in the 80s. It was a great decade. We like to share the memories,” he said.

Weiss will also be selling his bestselling book, “The Decade That Rocked,” featuring his never-before-published photography, a foreword by Rob Halford of Judas Priest, and an afterword by Sirius/XM DJ Eddie Trunk.

Weiss will also be selling embellished prints from his new book on Quiet Riot entitled “Keep on Rollin’” written by Quiet Riot fan club president Missy Whitney, released on March 11.

For more original content, follow Mark “Weissguy” Weiss on TikTok.