Michael Zagaris: Legends of Photography



Continuing our Legends of Photography series, this week Andy welcomes on Legends Of Sport his longtime friend Michael “Z Man” Zagaris from behind the lens to behind the mic. Michael is one of the most celebrated and admired entertainment photographers of our time, covering concerts, fashion shoots, 42 Super Bowls, the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Athletics for decades. Michael takes Andy behind the lens, detailing his early career in the 60’s & 70’s rock scene to the 49ers sidelines. Hear Michael’s stories of creating fake media credentials to gain behind the scenes access, living in London with the biggest rock and fashion stars, photographing larger than life NFL personalities such as Coach Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Steve Young, the evolution of photojournalism, his newest book, Field of Play: 60 Years of NFL Photographywhich includes insights from Pro Football Hall of Famers Montana, Ronnie Lott and Fred Biletnikoff, and much more!

Other topics discussed in this episode:

3:03  How Michael continues to stay ready to shoot on the sidelines after 50 years 

8:41  The dark moment in American history that prompted Michael to quit law school and politics, and pursue photography as a career

14:34  Michael interviews musicians, trades photos, and starts his career “in the right place at the right time”

20:26  How Michael would trick security to gain access to NFL sidelines

26:45  Michael’s pitch to 49ers Head Coach for unprecedented behind the scenes access

“I said, ‘Coach [Bill Walsh], you know, I think you coming here, you’ve got a chance to do something really special. And I think that it’s gonna be different than any coach we’ve had to date. I’d like to cover this and document it. Not as a sports photographer shooting a game, I want to shoot this as history. And I said, a history for both you for the team and for the NFL. And I want to cover as a photojournalist, not just as a sports photographer.’… He goes ‘Well, what does that mean?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’d like to have total access. Meaning I want to be able to shoot practice. I want to be able to shoot the games, both home and away. I want to be with the team in the hotel, in the locker room pregame, and halftime.’”

36:14 Michael inspires photographers (like Andy) to explore new perspectives, and the moments when he took his craft too far (like interrupting Bill Walsh’s Super Bowl halftime speech)

40:51 Learning how to adapt to each head coach’s style and navigate team PR departments for media access 

45:55 Michael’s rock ‘n roll photography anthology “Total Excess,” and his favorite rock shows

Tune in to this week’s episode of Legends Of Sport to hear two generational talents and record-keepers discuss inspiration, art, photojournalism, sports, and their best memories in the entertainment world. 

To learn more about Michael’s photography, check out his newest book, “Field of Play: 60 Years of NFL Photography” and his book “Total Excess,” which chronicles the rock music scene in San Francisco in the 1970s!

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