Northside SF  

Photographer Tom Zimberoff dazzles the locals at Caffé Union through April 15
By Bruce Bellingham

Tom Zimberoff began his photography career by hanging out in USAFbad company, touring with rock bands in the early 1970s. This explains why Jim Marshall, the famed rock ‘n’ roll photographer, attended Zimberoff’s kick-off party last month at Caffé Union.

While Marshall made a career out of snapping pictures of rock stars, Zimberoff branched out to all sorts of subjects. He became a photojournalist who took covers for Time, Money, and Fortune magazines, (he shot the first cover of People), photographed two sitting American presidents – Carter and Reagan – and hundreds of celebrities. He says he loves portrait work most of all.

What’s there not to love? His first two portrait subjects were Groucho Marx and John Lennon. He doesn’t romanticize portrait work too much, saying it’s 10 percent creative inspiration and 90 percent moving furniture. He does say he enjoys the friendships he’s made through portrait photography.
Zimberoff is also known as being one heck of a clarinet player. While studying at USC under a music scholarship, he started taking pictures. He once said he’d been waiting for Motown records to sign him as their first white clarinetist.

He got tired of waiting.

Today his photos are everywhere, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Oakland Museum, and the Performing Arts Library and Museum in San Francisco, where he lives.

Zimberoff has worked with three major photo agencies – Contact, Sygma and Gamma-Liaison, and has shot lots of lots of ads for major magazines. A self-described gadget freak, he created Photobyte software, and shows proficiency for something most artists don’t have – business sense. He is the author of Photography: Focus on Profit, a textbook used in many universities. He’s led seminars on copyrights, and how to work well with publishers. Zimberoff has also taught classes at San Francisco City College, Napa Valley College and the College of Marin.

Zimberoff is both funny and philosophical. He’s said that he’s not sure if he’s an artist. If he is, then it’s not necessarily as a photographer. “Living your life is an art,” he has said. “Doing it well is beautiful.”

Tom Zimberoff “Portraits”:
on exhibit at Caffé Union, 1830 Union Street (near Octavia), Wednesday through Monday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., through April 15.


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