SMASH HIS CAMERA

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

ron galella

The 2010 documentary titled Smash His Camera is about Ron Galella, a “pioneer paparazzo” who is hated by some and praised by others. His work is debatable: is it art or newsworthy? Is it slanderous uninvited intrusion caught on film? You decide.

Ron Galella got his start in the early 60s as a curious art-driven photographer who then became fascinated with chasing celebrities — screen actors, political figures and musicians. His pursuit of Jackie Kennedy Onassis quickly developed into his life’s mission; in fact his fascination went so far it landed him in several court battles with the recovering widow of JFK.

From the eyes of an outsider looking in, the fascination seems unhealthy. His photographs were used without her permission and on a number of occasions she either told him to stop, or tried to avoid the snap of his lens—most times even running or quickly walking away from him. To Galella’s credit, he did help build Jackie O’s legacy, her pictures were sold to dozens of magazines, keeping her in the spotlight. After all–THAT IS what helps keep publicity alive, the constant mentioning and sharing of (most of the time pirated) images or works of art. Whether it was ultimately a positive or a negative thing for the widow is a mystery; however, this should be weighed in terms of right and wrong. I wouldn’t be happy about being in the spotlight without first giving my consent. She did not give her written consent, so it’s wrong as far as I’m concerned and she wasn’t doing anything newsworthy.

At some point you have to wonder: Is the paparazzi morally right or wrong for chasing screen workers who some say are “celebs by choice and love the cameras” and is it OK that the paps (in Galella’s case) make millions for invading personal space? I still think that there is a time and a place for photo snapping and most importantly, safety. Even those that choose a life in the public eye should at all times have the freedom to choose the images that are broadcast.

I picked an attorney-friend’s brain about it because I was uneasy about the film and the idea as a whole, as many others are. I asked “why can’t celebs sue the paps for profits of their photos?” Seems more than fair right? This would substantially reduce the occurrence of paparazzos chasing down their subjects, right? Why would they if their profits were eliminated as the dangling carrot? His stance was this:

They’re public figures and paps photos are considered newsworthy, same reason why news shows like Catch a Predator don’t need signed release forms.” In this case, I completely understand newsworthiness, exposing predators serves the good of public safety, but what makes a pretty face or a bike ride through a park or city street newsworthy? Who decides what is newsworthy? The people that are paying the big bucks for these images are ultimately magazine editorial teams, but WHY? Sure to each his own, but sometimes I just cannot understand the decision making process that chooses to publish a photo that was taken without the subject’s: 1. participation 2. consent and 3. desire to have the image broadcast to potentially millions of readers.

I question their interest-range and really their judgment of what they think is news worthy. Has this person cured cancer, is a famous person walking down the street really worth sharing and publicizing. Are they thinking: “Is this the kind of image I want to project onto sponge-like minds?” Do they realize they are in fact influencing the thought processes of their readers?

It made me think about what drives people to buy gossip mags. It surely keeps me from throwing any dough their way, but what about you–what are your thoughts? Would you like to see a shift in publishing? Would readers as a whole benefit from more thought-out publishing practices and standards?

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