Tom Zimberoff is a classically-trained clarinetist who studied music at the University of Southern California before pivoting to photojournalism. In association with the legendary Sygma Photo Agency, he covered hundreds of historical and breaking news stories worldwide.
Zimberoff’s career took off — literally — with a helicopter carrying the military dictator of Panama. Tom was a stow-away. As a young freelancer trying to make his bones, hoping to grab exclusive photos of inscrutable ruler Gen. Omar Torrijos, he gave little thought to the possibility of being invited to exit the aircraft before it landed. It turned out to Tom’s entrée to more than twenty years of shooting for Time magazine.
Portraiture became, and still is, his passion. His first two were Marx and Lennon: Groucho and John. He since photographed many hundreds of portraits, including magazine covers depicting cultural icons from Ava Gardner to Steve Jobs plus two sitting American presidents for the covers of Time and Fortune. His portraits can be found in private collections and museums, including the National Portrait Gallery in London; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Performance + Design.
Zimberoff shot advertising campaigns, too, for Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. Navy, and Hollywood movie studios. Zimberoff’s film is archived at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.
Zimberoff created PhotoByte®, the first successful business-management software for photographers. He founded a venture-funded company during the “dotcom bubble” in Silicon Valley and later joined the StartX community of startups affiliated with Stanford University. He wrote the book, so to speak, about the business side of photography called Photography: Focus on Profit (Allworth Press, 2002). It was used to teach at colleges across the country. He also wrote and illustrated a two-volume set of coffee-table books titled Art of the Chopper* about the custom motorcycle culture he calls “haut moteur,” with biographies and photographs of its proponents. His photographs plus thirty of the actual motorcycles featured in the books were exhibited at the Clinton Presidential Library & Museum in 2009 before the installation traveled to other museums.
Born in Los Angeles and raised commuting with his parents between LA and Las Vegas, where his father worked as a musician, Zimberoff now lives and works in San Francisco.
* Vol. I Bulfinch Press, 2003, with foreword by Sonny Barger of the Hells Angels; and Vol. II Bulfinch, 2006, with a foreword by James Hetfield of Metallica