As a teenager, Zamora’s interest in journalism and his boyhood fascination with the heart-pounding heavy metal and hard rock of the times, put him front-row, center in the now demolished Memorial Coliseum in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. It was the place where artists started their careers, before they were legends, opening for the biggest groups of the time.
"Imagine seeing AC/DC or Van Halen for under ten bucks when these bands were young and hungry to make a mark. Unbelievable times," said Zamora.
Outside of school, baseball and family, Zamora spent hours pursuing and photographing the unforgettable images you see on this Web site, immortalizing the artists in their early days.
Zamora would bribe, barter and charm his way to the front row, often promising still photos to those who could save him a place or help him work his way to the front row. At every concert, he positioned himself directly in front of the stage, so his photographs would capture the high energy, heart pounding adrenaline fans felt at every concert.
“Whatever it took to get the best photos possible,” says the artist. Zamora had a reputation for taking “kick-ass” images of his peers’ favorite artists of the time, in a town that appreciated the up-and-coming hard-rocking artists.
"Corpus Christi was a favorite stop for the young bands of the time,” says Zamora. “The crowds were large, loud and energetic, and the bands rewarded us with some amazing shows."
A few times, Zamora was compelled to skip school to get that coveted spot in line (a point he doesn’t emphasize with his mother or teenage daughters). He remained a good student, even winning an academic opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for the Presidential Classroom for Young Americans Leadership Program.
“I had to live up to my end of the bargain as far as school was concerned,” said Zamora. “My mother didn’t’ appreciate my taste in music, so if I didn’t bring home the grades, I couldn’t go to the concerts.”
From his perch, at 6’4” Zamora would get so close, at times, making direct eye contact with the artists on stage. You will see this in his revealing photos of Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, and others.
"Randy Rhoads was so close I could touch him,” said Zamora. “At the time I didn't realize the photos I took that night would become my most prized images.” Rhoads would die just three and a half weeks after these photos were taken.
Zamora would often use his Miller High School yearbook and newspaper pass to talk his way backstage or into a sound check. Many of his photos were published in the high school publications, to the enjoyment of his friends who shared his passion for the music.
“I managed to work my way into Journey’s sound check and got to visit with the band backstage after the show,” he said. It was one of many great experiences for the young photographer.
When Zamora wasn’t following the music, he was testing his journalism bravado. One year, he worked his way onto the secured media platform at Corpus Christi Airport to get photographs of future President Ronald Reagan campaigning in South Texas.
“I knew the Secret Service was going to figure out I didn’t belong where I was, so I took as many photos as I could, and when they ran me off, I had what I needed,” said Zamora.
For a teenager, it was the carefree days of rock-n-roll, according to the four-time Emmy award-winning television journalist. “We absolutely lived for the next great concert,” he said.
As his talents progressed, his high school journalism teacher, Mr. Jesse Robles, helped him secure a part-time job at a local television station. It was the beginning of a new era in television – from cumbersome film to the faster, more flexible video. He learned to shoot, edit, and produce television stories and interviews with the famous and the not-so-famous. With his extensive amateur experience, Zamora comfortably fit into the journalism business even before graduating from high school, in 1981.
His passion for both music and photography took a sidebar to his love for baseball and his dream to play in college and perhaps the pros. He left “Corpus” and the beloved Coliseum to fulfill a baseball scholarship opportunity at Texas Southmost College, now UT-Brownsville. His days and nights were filled with college life, baseball and visits across the border. During those days, the team could dine in the school cafeteria then walk across the bridge into Matamoros for a second dinner.
This move pushed Zamora’s photo career to the side and the now-treasured concert negatives into a box in the back of the closet where they would remain until 2010.
Yet, the sports experience allowed him to travel and feed his competitive spirit. He was asked to try out for the Philadelphia Phillies organization, but a professional baseball career was not in the picture. Zamora returned to Corpus Christi and resumed his education and work at a Corpus television station before transferring to the University of Texas to pursue a journalism degree.
In Austin, he took a full load of classes and quickly landed a position as a photographer at a local TV station. It was the beginning of a now 30-plus year career as a journalist, traveling to Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union. He has covered world leaders, presidential inaugurations, natural disasters such as Hurricanes Ike and Katrina, and the devastation of September 11, interviewing and photographing famous people and the most humble among us.
Reflecting on his long career as a television news photographer, Zamora said, “I have been blessed to have a career that has given me a front-row seat to history, much like my point of view at these memorable concerts.”
It wasn’t until plans to demolish the Corpus Christi Memorial Coliseum surfaced, that his photo memories of the concerts re-emerged. So long in storage, Zamora pulled out his images and answered a call from the Corpus Christi Caller Times newspaper for readers to share their memories of the fated venue.
"When my teen years were done, I boxed up my negatives and stored them high in a closet. I never really thought I would do anything more with them. As the Coliseum was being torn down, I decided to publicly release a few photos in my home town. The reaction to their release was swift and overwhelming."
Eight of Jaime’s images were published in a special print edition commemorating the Coliseum, and a photo gallery of his images was posted on www.caller.com. Ten days after they were published, the gallery site had received more than 20,000 views, creating a spike in viewership for the middle-market newspaper, and creating an international buzz on the Internet.
"I was lucky to have experienced an era of live music that will never be matched and to have these vivid images that take me back to that time,” said Zamora.
The excitement surrounding the photos would touch the staff at the Art Center of Corpus Christi when friend and business partner, Kevin Greer, walked unannounced into the gallery, digital photos in tow. Within an hour, the gallery staff offered space for an exhibit. The two friends worked tirelessly to meet a two-week deadline. It was, literally, the first time most of the images had been publicly viewed.
Zamora received praise from local patrons.
The photo exhibit was held over beyond the original month-long run. People who had never been to an art gallery made special trips to see the photos, in person, recalling memories of the same concerts, probably only yards away from Zamora and his camera. The gallery counted a rise in attendance for the “Before They Were Legends,” show. Many lamented the demise of the Coliseum and the passing of a great era.
Now, at www.classicconcertphotos.com, true rock fans everywhere can purchase their own prints of their favorite bands. These rare photos have never been offered for sale to the public and some will be offered only on a limited basis. Check back to the Web site, frequently, as we continue to add new photos. Zamora continues to discover negatives of great shows that missed his initial search.
Zamora said, "I hope my photographs take people back to a time when rock shows were about the music and togetherness in one place. It will never be like that again."
Last Updated (Sunday, 14 November 2010 06:24)