Paparazzi revisited

Roger Ebert has always been one of my favorite writers and, in my opinion, the best film critic writing in America today.

But……… I have to heartily disagree with some of what he wrote in his film review in Friday’s (1/29) Chicago Sun Times.

His report was from Sundance, where a new film was premiered. It is titled “Smash His Camera” and profiles Ron Galella, the king of the paparazzi’s.

His review starts out:

“He is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure.”  He goes on to say “I disapprove of him, but enjoy his work.”

He describes a press conference where Robert Redford was asked about the film. “He told a tale of shooting “Three Days of the Condor” on location outside of the New York Times Building. To elude Galella, Redford entered one end of the building, raced through its second floor to the other end, slipped ito his trailer, disguised his stand in as a double, and had him run to his car to be driven away. He was able to enjoy the sight of Galella hurling himself onto the limo to shoot through its back window.”

My thoughts:

Was he describing a photographer or a person committing assault on a public street?

Can any of what Galella does be described as photography?

I ran into Ron Galella twice. The first time was in the photo pit at Madison Square Garden. There were maybe 40 photographers calmly waiting for the show to start, Galella among them. When the house light went down and the band hit the stage, people started maneuvering for position. There was plenty of room, and the usual ballet of people with cameras walking around, in front and in back of each other was taking place, all with a certain degree of civility. Half way through the first song, I felt a large elbow crash into my shoulder, knocking me into the barricade. It was Ron Galella, wanting my spot and certainly not caring if I wanted to give it up.

The second time was during the Rolling Stones tour of 1989. On an off night, someone threw the band a party that everyone on the tour was invited to attend. When I was ready to leave, I realized that I was walking out right behind Mick Jagger, who was immediately assaulted by a large group of paparazzi. Being the professional celebrity that Mick is, he stopped and smiled for everyone so that they could all get their shots. He then entered the back of a limo. That is where Ron Galella pounced! Standing right next to the window that Mick was closest to, he repeatedly took the exact same shot, a close up of Mick’s profile, a large flash going off each time, trying to provoke Mick into turning toward him, to no avail.

So the moral of the story, to me, is- Is Galella even a photographer, or just a thug on the street attacking celebrities for profit? And what does that do for the photographers that actually care about the quality of their images, and who think that everyone, even if they are famous, deserve the right to go out in public without being attacked (and then having someone profit greatly from the attack). Is it any wonder that most celebrities equate the word “photographer” with negative thoughts. And….as far as I can tell, Ron Galella pretty much started it all!

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