By Moon Zappa
When I look at Jerry Schatzberg's photo of my famous father’s unsmiling face contrasted with his curly, onyx hair in pigtails (a notoriously joyful hairdo usually reserved for young girls) I have to laugh. Mr. Schatzberg has clearly captured my father’s dry, acerbic wit, his quiet, Buddha-like lucidity, and his naturally rebellious, boat-rocking essence. This is made all the funnier because my father hated having his photo taken.
On the few occasions I was brave enough to ask my father if I could snap his photo, his instant scowl of impatient annoyance was not worth the trouble, (nor what I wanted to remember). So, I waited and begged for the discards from the test Polaroid piles of his shoots with the Professionals of the Still Image Realm. Or I waited and used my mother’s sewing scissors to clip images of Frank Zappa from magazines and newspapers (like everyone else) and pasted the flimsy sheets in my family photo albums alongside fuzzy snapshots I had taken of my mom and my siblings.
Another reason this photograph floods my heart with joy is that I have been led to understand that long hair worn by men in the late 60’s was already an atypical and suspect sight for the times, but that the addition of a symmetrical up-do on a working man was almost criminal. Let’s just say none of my friends have photos of their awesome, heterosexual dads in pigtails in their scrapbooks from that same era.
I have heard it said that the optimist thinks the world is great just as it is, and that the pessimist fears this is true. I love this idea because the malcontent cannot tolerate stagnation and MUST cultivate and protect aliveness. Here, in Mr. Schatzberg’s remarkable image, he illuminates this paradox; from beyond the grave my father continues his steadfast work of challenging us to question assumption, to not settle for the numbing habit of decorum for habit’s sake, to take action against anything that oppresses the human spirit, and to do so with the quiet confidence and humor of a true pessimist.
The photo of Frank Zappa is included in Who Shot Rock & Roll, running at the Annenberg Space for Photography through October 7, 2012.
Top image courtesy of Jerry Schatzberg, Frank Zappa, "Himself", 1967. Right image courtesy of Diva Zappa.