Photographing Celebrities

By Reina, Laura | Editor & Publisher, December 30, 1995 | Go to article overview

Photographing Celebrities


Reina, Laura, Editor & Publisher


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 light 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.

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