United States of America

“Our photographers say she was crying in the car for 10 minutes before she went inside,” reads the original caption on X17 Online.” You can even see wet tear stains on her sweatshirt.” When pop star Britney Spears shaved her head in 2007, exclusive snapshots appeared first on the website of the X17 photo agency, before splashing on newspaper covers worldwide. In total, the images sold for US$500,000, a coup for the agency and its founder, French-born François-Régis Navarre. He had taken an unprecedented gamble in his pursuit of Spears: he had given cameras to the poor and unemployed of Los Angeles. At the peak of her 2007 “meltdown,” Spears was being chased by up to 50 photographers, mostly untrained, their cameras fixed to automatic settings.

Celebrities and paparazzi are locked in an increasingly abusive relationship. In 2005, photographer Brad Diaz was shot with an air rifle while staking out a house occupied by Spears, but two years later, paparazzo Adnan Ghalib began dating the singer, while simultaneously offering tabloids exclusive pictures of the two of them naked. Joe Simpson, father of pop singers Jessica and Ashley Simpson, even takes and sells photos of his daughters. Celebrities do fight back: in an attempt to deflate the market value of paparazzi photographs, Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker wear the same clothes in public every day. But tactics of non-cooperation can easily backfire: in the past, George Clooney, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Lopez all tried to protect their privacy, only to find themselves boycotted by the paparazzi, who refused to photograph them at promotional events. The actors were all forced to issue apologies, and returned to posing in the street.

A growing pack of photographers awaits them; equipment is cheaper and, thanks to digitalization, anyone can have their photographs uploaded, published and viewed within minutes. In the 1990s only a few paparazzi agencies had more than a handful of staff, but today Splash News, the world’s biggest paparazzi agency, employs 1,000 professional photographers, who sell around 10,000 celebrity photographs a day. Even more people are employed as “tipsters”: networks of doormen, bartenders, chauffeurs and airport staff who track celebrities, earning up to 10 percent of a photograph’s sale price for information. And now more and more “normal” people can join in: Splash News launched in 2006, one of a growing number of websites offering cash for candid celebrity pictures. Under Californian law a person cannot be photographed if a “reasonable expectation of privacy” exists. In a world filled with “citizen paparazzi,” you could reasonably expect no privacy at all.

* In 2007, the UN-sponsored International Panel Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that global warming was "unequivocal."

How to stake out celebrities in Los Angeles

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[ 1 ] Paparazzi stalk the streets looking for celebrities. They also watch other paparazzi: if any leave a stakeout or pass by, there may be a better story elsewhere.
[ 2 ] The proto-paparazzi of 1960s Rome worked in pairs: one would get provocatively close to a celebrity and set off a flash in his or her face, the second would photograph the ensuing violent reaction.
[ 3 ] Working in a triangle formation, one paparazzo approaches from the front; when the targeted celebrity turns away, two paparazzi behind can photograph his or her face, increasing chances of a sellable picture.
[ 4 ] Paparazzi photographs begin to lose market value as soon as they’re taken, so photographers immediately upload images to agency websites, inventing captions on the spot to help them sell.


From the pages of COLORS #86 - Making the News.