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.”
Also during the 70’s, 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 38 Super Bowls, 13 World Series and 13 All Star games. His photos have appeared in numerous publications including on the covers of both Sports Illustrated and Time Magazines.
Michael lives in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district where he has been since 1973, and continues to shoot music, sports, fashion,culture, and most recently a coffee table book, Total Excess, published by Reel Art Press. The book will be available in October 2016 and is a viual feast replete with many unseen, until now, photos and compelling stories from the tumultuous Dionysian time that epitomized both music and culture in the late 20th century.