In today’s society, celebrities seem to be in a social class of their own as they earn a lot of money, have access to the top world resources and, most of all, possess public respect and love because they are responsible for entertaining the public and winning their hearts and support. However, even more popular than the celebrities are the people who capture them on film. Known as the paparazzi, these professionals are photojournalists who have the talent, resources, and the addiction to capturing photographs of celebrities. Living a life undercover and going to extensive measures for capturing priceless and highly valued pictures of famed professionals, the paparazzi are adorned by the public because they provide insight and VIP access into movie stars’ lives (Sonenshine).
When one talks about celebrities, the list is not simply restricted to actors and actresses but includes politicians, sportsmen and sportswomen, news anchors, and even authors. One does not have to be a professional photographer to become paparazzi; however, when it comes to selling photographs to magazines and newspapers, professionalism is highly valued and given preference. Most paparazzi are independent photographers and journalists who do not work for private or public corporations. This does not mean that private and public corporations do not have their own set of paparazzi. In fact, all magazine and newspaper outlets, especially celebrated names such as People Magazine, Vogue, and the New York Times, have hired private photojournalists with the sole reason of capturing much awaited celebrity moments on film to increase their ratings and reputation (Curtis).
Focusing on a day in the life of a celebrity photojournalist, there are many exciting moments coupled with some inactive moments where one must wait continuously for any solid data and content. This involves the photojournalists being sly and using clever methods to capture the rare footage. Paparazzi have to be cautious and careful, because they need to avoid legal issues and limits which may be crossed in certain situations. Depending on the moods, personalities, and personal beliefs of celebrities, the response paparazzi receive can greatly vary. For instance, some people actually enjoy getting their pictures taken on a normal day of their lives as they see it as a way of connecting with fans. Others desire to get their pictures taken for the sheer publicity and increasing ratings. In fact, many celebrities will hire their personal photojournalists who will capture “their good sides” and sell the images to reputable magazines or news outlets. The famous court case that singer and actress Barbara Streisand fought against paparazzi Wendal Wall is an example of how desperately the celebrities want to protect themselves from negative imaging at all levels. Streisand accused Wall of stalking her and her husband and sued him for taking inappropriate pictures of them. However, the judge quickly dismissed all charges when it turned out that the photos showed the actress without makeup and wearing baggy clothes, which she did not want the public to see. BBC reporter David Willis stated, “Hollywood authorities tend to be protective of their stars and one photographer said the verdict showed that money and influence could not after all dent a person’s right to take pictures in a public place” (Willis).
However, there is the group of celebrities that value privacy and want others to respect that private space regardless of the level of their famed status. These are the people who despise paparazzi and desperately avoid them taking drastic measures as going in public wearing a disguise or changing some aspects of their appearances. Critics of paparazzi state:
Photojournalism has become a different profession. The sums of money have increased with the dumbing down of journalism where entertainment is cash. The money is not in reporting on wars or famine, but in getting a picture of a celebrity topless. Today’s market is Dodi kissing Diana on a boat in the Mediterranean. That sells (Sonenshine).
There have been many lawsuits involving celebrity photojournalists, many of which have resulted in court given restraining orders, especially with private sex scandals, issues involving affairs and cheating on partners and partaking in illegal activities such as drugs and underage drinking causing the highest numbers of issues with paparazzi. For instance, child celebrities who are leading seemingly irresponsible adult lives including celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Shia LaBeouf, and Miley Cyrus are continuously targeted by photojournalists and compared with others of their age or shown in comparison with their former, younger selves (Roberta).
Due to these scandals, the paparazzi hold the power to either make or break someone’s career, and they especially like to feed off with negative publicity as the public reacts to it more strongly and passionately. For instance, actress Daniela Cicarelli sued the paparazzi for videotaping her having intimate moments with her boyfriend on a beach; however, the courts favored the photojournalists as they argued that the actress should not be engaging in public displays of affection in a public setting if she valued her privacy so much (LiveLeak). This is an example of the paparazzi winning the case, which can be rare. In addition, there are paparazzi who try to take advantage of celebrities and make money of them by attempting to sue them on various charges. For example, a photographer sued actor Keanu Reeves because he abused the photographer when he tried to take a picture. However, the photographer’s claims were dismissed as it was Reeves whose private space was being violated. Sometimes, the paparazzi’s plans can backfire and even result in economic loss like in the case when the photographer had to pay liabilities to Reeve’s party (Saner).
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Along with being vexing and blackmailing, some paparazzi can be extremely dangerous to the celebrated personalities’ emotional and physical health. This can take place when paparazzi turn to extreme measures to capture photos and start seriously stalk a celebrity in ways that hinder the person’s day-to-day life. Actress Scarlett Johansson complained to the news reporters:
I’ve called the police several times and said, ‘Listen, there are people following me in very big cars. They’re surrounding me in these huge vehicles—vehicles nobody should be driving—and I fell unsafe. But the police can do nothing. It’s not even the fact of being photographed—that’s just an annoyance. It’s actually scary. They’re endangering people. Not just me, but everybody around me. It’s horrible (Kravitz).
There are numerous cases in which celebrities, politicians, and famous authors have complained about feeling unsafe and threatened. In fact, many extremists and threatening groups of people use the cover of being paparazzi to get close to famed personalities. History has numerous examples of this, and people are struggling with controlling the issue as the field is legal. For instance, John Lennon was murdered by a paparazzi fan Mark David Chapman who stalked him for a great length of time before finally shooting him (Harry). The only thing that these personalities can do is to hire personal body guards and security teams for their protection.
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When thinking of the word “paparazzi,” usually the image of negative, vexing, and nosy journalists comes to mind. Even celebrities who usually do not have a problem with people taking their pictures unofficially will complain that the photojournalists are rude, invasive, and are not sensitive to the situation at hand; after all, not everyone is cheerful and accepting at all times others need to give them that space. Focusing on the word’s origin, “paparazzi” comes from an Italian name, Paparazzo. Paparazzo was a popular character in an Italian movie made in the 1960s called the La Dolce Vita, who of course was a photographer. Another origin of the word “paparazzi” is the Italian word for mosquito, which is pappataci. These photojournalists were appropriately labeled paparazzi, because they were considered to be annoying and irritating like mosquitos, which is actually meant to insult the profession. However, despite the negative publicity of paparazzi and the negative social reputation, most of these photographers take great pride in their work and realize what power and influence they have, especially when it comes to famous people.
The truth is that these photographers and journalists have the ability to portray people in any way they desire. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In fact, research shows that people tend to rely on photographs rather than written articles when it comes to developing love or hatred for a celebrity. The reason for this is because the celebrities heavily rely on their images and physical appearances to develop a fan base. This is also the reason why many famous personalities are wiser in their reactions to paparazzi activities. They do not want to get on the photographers’ bad sides and have the photographers portray them negatively to the public. This wise thinking goes a long way as people realize that having a strong and stable relationship is in their personal interest in order to climb the fame ladder successfully. Peter Howe, a famous paparazzi author of Time Magazine stated, “Celebrities need a higher level of exposure than the rest of us so it is a two-way street. The celebrities manipulate”.
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Moreover, this secret makes the public question the moral and ethical work standards of paparazzi. The question remains ”Are the pictures one sees really the truth or are they reflecting certain arrangements between the celebrity and the paid photographer? There have been cases in which actors have continued acting on the public arena in order to gain a certain reaction from audiences and especially the paparazzi. For instance, the incident which took place in 2005 between Tom Cruise and Oprah left the press chattering for months, and the incident is still ridiculed and brought under the spotlight in parodies, movies, and news interviews. Tom Cruise jumped up and down on the couch while live on television, an action which was greatly speculated as being planned and arranged beforehand in order to boost publicity. The ultimate result proved that the paparazzi gained priceless material for their photographs and articles for months to come, and the rating for Oprah’s talk show sky-rocketed (Today).
Contrary to common misconception, paparazzi are not illegal in the United States. However, depending on the state one is in, there are specific rules and regulations coupled with restrictions. For instance, there are certain space limitations which prohibit photojournalists from being a certain number of feet away from famous public personalities, and there are even curfews which help the famous personalities avoid uncomfortable situations at late night hours. Furthermore, many places around the world such as Germany, France, and Norway require that photojournalists have written permission from people before publishing their photographs. In cases where adult celebrities have broken public laws or engaged in illegal activities, most paparazzi get away with publishing stories and pictures without legal consent as the content becomes labeled under something that would interest the general public.
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The main reason why the paparazzi are not considered illegal is because they are full time working citizens who continue to contribute not only to the American economy, but also to the public interest and entertainment industry, which itself makes billions of dollars and highly contributes not only to the American economy but also to the international entertainment industry. In fact, celebrity photojournalists are able to make quite the income using their photo capturing skills. It works in a following way: a photojournalist engages in some quality and serious research which involves developing connections and finding out the locations and personal schedules of celebrated individuals. Then, he tries to capture the photograph where the real action takes place as the photographers start clicking away with their cameras trying to increase their chances of developing the best possible quality picture.
Moreover, these photojournalists realize where the public weakness lies. The public would do anything to get a sneak peek into their favorite actor’s or personality’s life. Using this fact about human nature, magazines and newspaper outlets are willing to pay large sums of money to photographers for their rare information. Sometimes, even celebrities will pay the rights to certain pictures which they either cherish or would wish that the public is oblivious to the knowledge. What is more, many photojournalists make significant amounts of money by blackmailing celebrities into buying their own pictures and paying the salary. To give an idea of how much money a potential good picture can make, let us examine pictures of Angelina Jolie’s and Brad Pitt’s children. Both actors decided to make money on their children’s pictures when their daughter Shiloh was born in 2006. They sold the rights to the pictures to People Magazine for over four million dollars instead of letting the paparazzi get rich from the occasion. The money was then donated to needy African children.
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Moving on to the career of a paparazzi, anyone can become a paparazzi, but as stated previously, obtaining a photojournalism or communications degree can help the chances of one being hired by a reputable news company. Next, having the right equipment is necessary to obtain high quality pictures, ones that will not only be appreciated by the public but also by the high stake magazine branches. To gain such positive results, investing in various kinds of cameras is a wise idea which includes single lens reflex cameras, telephone lenses which are highly useful for taking photos from great distances, and concealing camera features which are, of course, great for camouflaging and capturing private and highly prized moments with the kids and family. These camera accessories can also help one get into restricted areas, especially if the cameras are compact and cannot be seen easily.
Basically, there are many tactics involved along which require the latest camera accessories and high-tech features. Also, good paparazzi are always updated on current events and news and know exactly which celebrities to follow, thus investing personal time, money, and energy in the adventure. This involves doing some research and using connections such as friends and family of the celebrity along with fellow photojournalists with inside access. Even though purchasing all the fancy digital equipment may seem expensive and extreme, the truth is that the long-term costs of cheaper cameras outweigh the digital camera costs since developing pictures not only requires more equipment but room space along with more time.
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Furthermore, the research involves gathering data about the most favorite places the person likes to visit along with locations of prospective movie shootings or political meetings. This mandates that the paparazzi are able to willingly travel anywhere at any time to earn more money. Yes, there are some risks involved in the job, but it is worth it when the pictures are sold for thousands of dollars. Another key point to keep in mind (while contemplating on becoming a photojournalist) is to always avoid large crowd areas. These include red carpet events, movie premiers, and political campaigns. The crowds are not the people that one is trying to avoid, but rather the other paparazzi. After all, they are the competition and if one follows the crowd, one will get the same exact pictures, which immediately decreases the money value (Wolens).
Going deeper into the secrets behind what makes a great celebrity photojournalist is to have or develop some of the most priceless characteristics in any human being. These are patience and alertness which will guarantee success in any profession. One can take countless pictures of celebrities walking and having a good time with friends or family members while shopping, eating or being at the beach. However, these kinds of pictures are not extraordinary and will not end in large payments. The golden rule is to look for that moment which shows off a side of a person that was not known before. For example, even though a photograph of actress Rachel McAdams posing on the red carpet is pretty to look at, the fans will much more appreciate the picture of Rachel sitting with (now ex) boyfriend Ryan Gosling on his lap (Curtis). Even though this was a romantic image, one must remember that paparazzi make money and gain success through other people’s embarrassing moments, so it is always better and safer to capture those slippery moments which might include a trip, a fall or a fight.
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After gathering data, it is time to reach out to tabloid publishers and news magazine outlets to have the picture sold and published. This can be done through many ways such as e-mailing, post mailing, walk-in visits, or setting up private meetings. In most cases, the news magazine and tabloid publishers will request that the paparazzi send out sample pictures to preview and approve prior to publication. There is nothing wrong with that but one must be cautious as chances are they might be published without consent and giving proper rights to the photographer. To protect oneself from this, one should use photo editing software to place personal watermarks on the pictures which serve as copyright shields or signatures. There is no rule that states that one can only send previews to one magazine publisher which means that people can contact multiple publishers, and, in fact, this is an ideal time to negotiate prices and give the prize to the highest bidder.
Warnings should never go unheard, and one should read up on the legal warnings and limitations paparazzi have in order to avoid future problems. Especially when dealing with agencies, it is a good idea to either hire attorneys or private agencies which work as middle men between the photojournalists and the tabloid publishers. The purpose of these agencies is to protect the rights of the paparazzi and explain all the legal issues in detail; they do, however, require commission. Whether one chooses to hire these legal agencies or work individually, it is imperative to learn all about the legal limitations. For instance, pictures which are taken on private property can be published without the photographer’s consent, and the publishers have no obligations which require them to pay the photographer anything. Lastly, there will be times of crisis which might include angry celebrities physically or verbally assaulting paparazzi. It is of utmost importance that the paparazzi stay calm, gather witness information and, of course, take legal action when required. As history shows, it is not always the celebrities who win the cases.
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Paparazzi are not new to society and have been seen throughout history in many forms according to the technology available at the particular time period. Yes, this means that even Shakespeare was followed by paparazzi. How else do you think we know as much as we do about him, especially his personal life? Even though their work is never truly appreciated by the society, the fact is that society would be incomplete without these rather vexing photojournalists. Just as doctors and nurses tend to satisfy people’s physical needs and treat ailments, paparazzi quench people’s thirst for news about each other nurturing and tending to people’s emotional needs and requirements, whether it is by writing an article about the inside life of a politician or capturing the latest movie star couple on camera for the fans to drool over.
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