Above: A paparazzi photo of Robbie Williams. Credit: Henry Bond.

You Paparazzi?

One of the most intense and strange ways into creative photography is to go and join the paparazzi, for an evening, a week, or more if you think you can handle it. The paps are some of the most eccentric photographers you will ever meet. Their work is solely concerned with capturing impromptu photos of famous persons. The paparazzo photographer operates a bit like a person fishing on a river bank: they take up position in a promising looking spot and just wait--it can be hours of waiting before a bite happens. Sometimes they scan the newspapers for leads towards promising spots but often they just go to spots where they have had rich-pickings in the past: outside a posh restaurant, airport international arrivals, outside an exclusive nightclub, etc. Many of the paps have entertaining stories to tell to while away the hours of waiting while some are very introverted and unfriendly.

Once a famous person emerges, however, it is every-man-for-himself, and no quarter given, as the jostling begins. As soon as the celebrity emerges there will usually be around ten-to-thirty seconds time available to get a shot before the famous person or persons step into a waiting car or are otherwise removed from view. In these moments the pressure is on. If you go home at the end of your first night with nothing at all captured don't be surprised--it's not easy work. Getting pap photos can be great fun and is a solid exercise that will most certainly hone your ability to react and photograph under time-limited pressure.

For the studious-and-curious the term paparazzo means in colloquial Italian "buzzing-annoying fly" and was coined by Federico Fellini is his genius film La Dolce Vita. In that film, Paparazzo is a pap working with his Rolleiflex and riding a Vespa motor-scooter. Fellini shows throughout the film that the media paparazzi are not parasites of the famous, but rather the famous and the media photographers are involved in a mutually-rewarding symbiotic relationship. (The celebrity needs the pap to make him and keep him famous.)

(28 December 2018)