Joe Samberg’s photography career began in 1969, when he was 22, shooting pictures on the streets of Manhattan, near Washington Square Park. In February 1970, he moved to Berkeley, California, where he started photographing the “street kids” of Telegraph Avenue, the post-hippie-era adolescent casualties washed up on the sidewalks of the Berkeley campus business district. For three years, Samberg’s camera documented their world of “sex, drugs, and broken couches,” culminating in his first major work, the gritty and intimate “Telegraph Avenue,” shot entirely in black and white. Employing only available light, Samberg’s “Telegraph Avenue” photos pulsate with life, authenticity, and emotion.
In 1975, Samberg became a staff photographer for the Oakland Museum, where he gained a mastery of interior lighting techniques. In 1984, he launched a series of fine-art still life photographs in deeply saturated colors, reminiscent of the hues, lights, and deep shadows of Dutch still life paintings. He created compositions from organic materials, including iridescent scarab beetles, dried flowers, pieces of textured paper, glass, and stone. The results were idiosyncratic, sensual, and richly layered.