Michael Zagaris is an American photographer, best-known for his music and sports images. A selection of his photographs are shown below. Please contact us with questions!
Michael Zagaris was born in 1945 and grew up in the central valley of California. He attended George Washington University and played both football and baseball while studying politics. In college he also worked part time on Capitol Hill, first for Senator Pierre Salinger, then for Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
In the fall of 1967 Michael entered law school and started working for Senator Robert Kennedy as a speechwriter. Witnessing the death of his mentor and friend first hand when Senator Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968 was a life-changing moment for Michael.
Disillusioned, he dropped out of law school and went on a search for self, truth and any meaning he could find. He threw himself wholly into the counter culture movement of the time. Michael started hanging out at the Avalon Ballroom and made friends with Bill Graham who ran the Fillmore Auditorium. Bill pulled Michael backstage to capture unforgettable moments.
Taking photos was little more than a hobby at this point, and Michael spent his time soaking up the scene, with people and bands like Cream, Patti Smith, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Who, The Dead and Jefferson Airplane. He also began working on a book chronicling how the British bands were reworking American blues roots and impacting both the popular music scene and the culture. While reviewing contact sheets with Eric Clapton, the guitarist suggested that Michael pursue photography as a steady gig, urging him to take his photographic work to the next level. Michael never looked back.
In 1971 Michael began shooting the most influential musicians of the decade including Ten Years After, Humble Pie, Grateful Dead, The Faces, Patti Smith, Santana, Blondie and The Clash. His unique perspective led to many editorial gigs, working steadily for Rolling Stone, Creem, Melody Maker, NME, and Oui. His work also went beyond music and captured some of the most vital counter culture figures of that period, including Billy Bowers, Divine, Peter Berlin, The Cockettes, and Jim Carroll who used one of Michael's portraits for the cover of his book, “Basketball Diaries.”
During the same period, Michael started shooting professional sports. He began as a team photographer for the San Francisco 49ers in 1973, and the Oakland A's in 1981, both which he continues to shoot to this day. To date Michael has photographed 34 Super Bowls, 12 World Series and 14 All Star games. His photos have appeared in numerous publications including on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Michael lives in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district where he has been since 1973, and continues to shoot music, sports, fashion and culture.
“Z-man” writes: “The times we went through in the 60s and 70s were way beyond control, and unless you were there, you don’t get the whole picture. We thought we were changing things but we were really channeling music, fashion, sex, drugs and film. For a photographer like me there were no restrictions.”