Don’t Call me Paparazzi

I probably have more pet peeves than the average person. I guess I’ll put that out there as the disclaimer. Taking it easy about certain subjects have never really been in my genetic makeup. One of my biggest pet peeves I have happens almost every wedding. Someone invariably makes an offhand comment that having photographers around is like being followed by the paparazzi. Logical me knows they don’t mean anything bad by it, they don’t necessarily understand that to me paparazzi are scum of the earth, not really fit for the title of photographer. You see when I take your photo I’m not intentionally trying to make you look fat, or awkward, or perhaps capture a wardrobe malfunction so I can sell you out for some quick cash to People magazine. I’m not using the easiest automatic techniques the camera is capable of just to get you in focus if the side effect is a flat or boring image. My goal, (whether idealistic or unrealistic) is to take something artistic. Maybe even to take a better photo of you than anyone else has ever taken. Again I realize that the intention isn’t to offend – yet to me it does.

A couple of days ago I watched a movie called Smash the Camera. It’s about Ron Galella, a somewhat notorious 1970s-80s paparazzi photographer that was sued multiple times by Jackie Onassis for harassment. If anyone has seen the movie I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. There is no question that he has a collection of photos of famous people that might be considered of historical value. Where any of the photos beautiful or well taken? Were any of them worth the lengths he went to obtain them without the consent of the subject? It brought up some questions in mind. Obviously photographers have the right to photograph whatever and whomever they want to in a public space so long as that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy and their actions are not endangering anyone’s safety. I would never support hindering press photography, or even the rights of photographers like myself who have on occasion taken a photo of someone without their express consent. The difference I see is the level of harassment that is involved by the paparazzi for images that ultimately have no artistic significance. And I realize of course that art is arbitrary and not something we can pass an easy definition on.

Today I’m reading the news online and I see this story about the “photographer” who got killed in his attempt to photograph Bieber in his car. And the subsequent statement released by Bieber saying, “Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders and the photographers themselves.” So what exactly is he proposing? Don’t we already have laws against jaywalking (which is my understanding of this photographer running across traffic on Sepulveda in LA trying to get the shot).

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