By: Laura Reina
As tabloid TV programs grow in popularity, and as the amount of
money supermarket tabs are willing to pay for candid photos
reaches record levels, the number of paparazzi is on the rise sp.
PAPARAZZI MEANS “SMALL bug” in Italian. So when does a small bug become a big pest?
Consider the scuffle between actor Robert De Niro and paparazzo Joseph Ligier. Ligier tried to photograph De Niro at New York’s Bowery Bar. De Niro allegedly responded by punching the photographer. Ligier slapped De Niro back with criminal charges and a civil suit.
De Niro denied ever hitting Ligier. Ligier said
he’d drop all charges if De Niro would cough up $150,000.
Ligier’s plans were foiled when a sting operation, in which De Niro participated, helped catch Ligier accepting a bag of cash.
Actor Alec Baldwin had a similar confrontation. As Baldwin and his wife, Kim Basinger, were walking from their car to their house with their two-day-old daughter, Ireland, Alan Zanger attempted to photograph the family. Baldwin was irate that Zanger tried to photograph his baby’s homecoming and struck Zanger in the face. Zanger called the police and had Baldwin charged with misdemeanor battery.
What’s perpetuating these outbursts between celebrities and the paparazzi? Are the paparazzi becoming more aggressive and obtrusive as a result of the “feeding frenzy” being created by supermarket tabloids, which offer big bucks for photos of hot stars at hot places?
Are celebrities losing their composure, figuring an assault charge is minor compared to the harassment they feel forced to endure? And what is the impact of the paparazzi’s behavior on newspaper and magazine staff photographers?
Charles Cooper, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) said paparazzi-type photographers are “looking for a photo which will make them money quickly; apparently there’s a market for these kind of pictures, which is why [the paparazzi] exists.”
Cooper feels the behavior of the paparazzi is uncomplimentary to photographers, and embarrassing to the legitimate celebrity photographer.
“You have those who do quality work, and there are those who work on the fringe,” Cooper stated.
Cooper explained that the paparazzi’s attempt to follow and learn the habits of celebrities is not an example of using good ethics when covering the news. A dignified photojournalist approaches a celebrity like a human being, he said.
That could mean making an appointment or going through the proper channels.
“Each photographer has his or her own standard to live by,” he said.
David Handschuh, a staff photographer for the New York Daily News, defines a paparazzo as someone who devotes his or her entire existence to taking pictures of celebrities. But as a photographer who’s out there taking pictures in a city with a glamorous night life, he can understand why paparazzi photographers act the way they do.
“[Celebrity photography] is a very rough business. I think their aggressiveness and sneakiness is the cause and effect of their business in general,” said Handschuh.
He explained that there are big bucks to be made ? and now, because of the popularity of TV-tabloid shows, there’s even more money in video.
“Photography is not being phased out. But a still frame of video looks just about as good as a still photo,” he commented.
Also, celebrities and publicists do their share of whipping up controversy, which is attractive to the public, he said.
Handschuh pointed out that for the number of celebrity attacks on the paparazzi, the amount of times it doesn’t happen outweighs it tremendously.
When it does happen, however, the publicity is widespread.
“By becoming stars, celebrities must acknowledge they’ve given up their right to privacy,” explained Handschuh.
Handschuh did point out that celebrity-seekers with cameras, who “crash” star events, hurt the credibility and make it difficult on legitimate photographers.
As for the paparazzi, Handschuh concluded that there are some who are nasty, and there are some who are just trying to make a living filming celebrities. The same goes for mainstream photographers.
Richard Corkery is also a staff photographer with the New York Daily News. But it’s his job to specifically take pictures of celebrities. Because of the nature of his work, he’s out taking pictures of stars with the paparazzi every day.
“The more publicity the paparazzi gets, the more there are,” Corkery explained.
Corkery also made a point of saying that video has become an important new medium for the paparazzi.
“Stars are more leary with a video camera following them. They’re being hunted down all the time,” said Corkery.
Corkery admitted that many of the paparazzi are professional and well-trained. But many of them aren’t, and their behavior can be less than professional and an embarrassment to staff photographers. There are some photographers who actually make an entire living tracking down and photographing John F. Kennedy Jr., he said as an example.
It’s important for stars to learn how to handle constant attention. Corkery feels that on the whole, celebrities are pretty decent. But sometimes, because they control so much and have so much power, their sense of importance becomes inflated, and they expect special treatment everywhere they go. Yet, he feels sorry for many celebrities because they’re constantly being hounded.
“They can be belligerent and arrogant, but on the whole, celebrities are very nice,” said Corkery.
As an entertainment photographer, Corkery is no stranger to skirmishes with celebrities. He actually wound up taking Bill Cosby to court.
Corkery was covering an event where Cosby’s wife was receiving an award.
While he was there, he got a picture of Cosby applauding an act. As Corkery moved to the back of the room, Cosby followed him. Cosby then asked a security guard to have Corkery removed from the event. Corkery protested, and wanted to know on what grounds was he being asked to leave. Cosby then physically pushed Corkery through the doors.
Corkery had no injuries, but felt Cosby’s act was socially unacceptable and terrorizing. Corkery felt his only recourse was to sue. The jury found that assault and battery did occur ? under provocation.
Corkery said he knew he wouldn’t get any money if he sued Cosby.
“It’s difficult to sue a celebrity. When you walk into the courtroom, the jury looks to that person as their friend,” Corkery explained.
Still, Corkery believes celebrity photography is a great way of life. Photographing stars is a cheery job, and he has the opportunity to attend “happy” events such as parties and openings.
“I’m covering the niceties of life,” he said.
As for the paparazzi, it’s a matter of supply and demand. The price drives the market.
Tabloids put out the word that they want photos of certain celebrities, then a free-for-all occurs. Tabloids are driving the markets, but readers want it, said Corkery.
“A lot of them are good photographers and very professional,” explained Corkery.
“But there is the fringe out there who are a little off the wall.”
“A lot of them are good photographers and very professional,” explained Corkery. “But there is the fringe out there who are a little off the wall.”