Previously: “The Strangers.”
“The Zapata Letters” is one of those pastas that leaves you with more questions than answers. I’m curious to know what exactly happened between letters eight and nine to spark what happened next — and what exactly Zapata captured in the photograph that began the whole thing.
The story seems to have originated here, although the website itself has been set to private these days. I know the explanation for this choice is likely something mundane… but part of me can’t help but imagine an alternative or two.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Maybe the Zapata Letters were never supposed to be shared in the first place.
The Zapata Letters are a series of short, handwritten correspondence from an unknown “benefactor” to one Richard Zapata, a relatively unknown photographer living in Greenwich Village, New York. Zapata’s photographs were never particularly famous, or even popular among the “indie” crowd, with one clear exception.
A great deal of photography is, unsurprisingly, luck; one must be in the right place at the right time. Zapata had one photo that was published in a small subsection of the New York Times, and it was this photo that served as the catalyst from his unknown “benefactor”. The photograph was total happenstance. Zapata had been out late one night, walking home from a party, and he was slightly inebriated.
It was around 5 am, and light, but before sunrise, and Zapata happened to catch an unremarkable street-corner just as the streetlights went out and just before the sun rose, creating a play with the fog and lighting just pretty enough to earn filler space.
Within one week of its publication, Zapata received the first letter, and every letter afterward was received exactly one week in succession, without fail.
The First Letter (Dated July 31st, 2001):
“Dear Mr. Zapata,
There is captured magic in your photograph. Stolen Beauty.
No return address was given, and the letter, as were all of the following letters, was signed simply as “Benefactor.”
The Second Letter (Dated August 7th, 2001):
“Dear Mr. Zapata,
Perhaps you do not understand. Beauty is not a renewable resource.