The Art of Paparazzi Photography

Most people immediately imagine an unscrupulous and intrusive photographer who will do whatever it takes to get a photograph of a celebrity on vacation, with a love interest, or otherwise involved in a completely mundane endeavor. Some paparazzi will even go to great lengths to snap a shot of a celebrity’s kids.If this means they have to case houses, inconspicuously spend countless hours outside of Hollywood hotspots, crash parties, or hide in bushes, this is exactly what they’ll do. Nobody said being a Paparazzi was easy!

The Origin Of The Word

The word ‘Paparazzo’ can be traced back to the 1960 Frederico Felini film “La Dolce Vita”. In that film, one of the characters is a ruthless and cunning news photographer named Paparazzo. Apparently, Felini chose this name because in certain Italian dialects, the word ‘paparazzo’ conjures up a particularly irritating noise—the buzzing of a mosquito looking for blood to suck hovering overhead, for example. In fact, the Italian word ‘pappataci’ means sandflies, and the word ‘ragazzi’ means ‘thugs’. Which is fitting, because paparazzi do basically have to bully and pester the celebrities they’re always after in order to get that sought after snapshot.

On The Hunt

Paparazzi are basically stalking their prey—only their prey happen to be human beings, and their weapon of choice is the camera. Granted, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for someone famous who makes more money than most of us would ever make in a thousand life times, and perhaps it could be argued that losing one’s privacy is a small price to pay for stardom. Still, being a paparazzo is far from being what most would consider to be a noble profession. Asked to describe their own job description, most paparazzi would rather refer to themselves as “photojournalists”.

The Art Of Paparazzi Photography

However, despite the questionable ethics of their trade, there’s no denying that occasionally a paparazzo (‘Paparazzi’ is the plural form of the word) is able to capture an amazing moment on film, Yes, loathe as we might be to admit it, there is ‘the art of paparazzi photography’.

The Rembrandt of Paparazzi Photography

If paparazzi photography had its own “old master”, it would have to be the American photographer Ron Galella.

Highly artistic since a young age, Galella had first studied ceramics before going on to study photojournalism at the Art Center of Design in Los Angeles. It was here in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, that Galella first became interested in celebrities as the subjects of what were to become his iconic and culture defining black and white photographs. For more info on this, please see trick photography and special effects by Evan Sharboneau.

Yes, he was and still is a Paparazzo, but no one could argue that Galella’s photographs are anything less than high art. The list of celebrities he photographed over the years -both wittingly and unwittingly- includes Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, and Madonna. However, his photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are the most striking of all the photographs in his canon.

Take Galella’s famous photograph of “Jackie O” crossing Madison Avenue mid-stride; with her wind-swept hair blowing about her face, and her sunglasses in her hand, this photograph displays a masterful command of composition.

Galella had nothing but kind words to say about Jacqueline Kennedy Onnasis, and his admiration of her definitely shows through in the flattering photographs he took. However, although she was his muse, the famous first lady would nonetheless file numerous restraining orders against Galella.