To converse with photographer Michael Zagaris is to feel like a bubble inside a just poured Coca-Cola; your head jumps from story to story, happiness swirling around you. Football, baseball, San Francisco, and the music scene all jockey for attention as you speak. Time becomes non-essential because you want to hear more about the parties that ended with broken hearts or disbandment. You want to know what life is like inside the world of sports while the crowd sits outside. To his friends- and he has many- he is “Z.”
His story begins in 1968 when he could have given up hope; his mentor and boss Robert F. Kennedy was shot before his eyes. Instead, he gave up the political life and dove into the music world with a pen and a camera. Eric Clapton, still young and trying to make it himself, convinced Zagaris to put down the tape recorder and focus on his camera skills after looking at his contact sheets. Zagaris wisely listened, making memorable pictures and writing the best, most-detailed captions of anyone in the business. Soon, Zagaris became the staff photographer for the San Francisco 49ers before the days of Joe Montana and during the summers he joined the Oakland Athletics too.
Two years ago Zagaris tackled the herculean task of editing his work in the music industry to create a book entitled Total Excess: Photographs by Michael Zagaris to be published in November by Reel Art Press. We share a few of his stories here but to read the unedited and unbelievable story of a man who lived his life unashamed you have to read the book.