There is certainly a method to the madness of a true Bay Area original, the San Francisco 49ers official team photographer known as ‘Z-man.’
“I’ve always approached what I do, not so much as a photographer or even an artist, but as an actor,” Michael Zagaris told me in a recent interview at his studio.
Years ago while covering the 49ers, I saw Zagaris emerge from the showers in the locker room at Candlestick. I couldn’t exactly wrap my brain around why the official photographer was moving around the team’s inner sanctum just like one of the players.
Here’s what I didn’t know. Z-man has a history of melting into the scenery that he is documenting. Music, art, fashion, sports and politics have provided the canvas for a man with unusual vision who becomes one with his subjects.
“I went to Bill right after he became head coach,” said Zagaris. “I knew his background. I just had a feel for him and I knew he was more than a football coach. He was a historian and a man of letters. He was an archivist and I really had a feeling something special was going to happen and I said, ‘I want to document this.’”
Zagaris did just that by immersing himself into the world of the 49ers while helping create the mythology of a dynasty via his unique backstage pass.
I hope you enjoy my take on the Z-man’s story.
Photo Credit: 'Walsh and Montana', Copyright Michael Zagaris.