Mobbed by the ‘Flash’

Do the paparazzi have too much freedom? Activities of the paparazzi have created havoc for some celebrities, sport figures and public figures. This is a pejorative word used for them, but nowadays, it’s used for those photographers who click photos of notable persons.

Who is a paparazzi? Generally, it’s believed the paparazzi are photographers who capture candid photographs of celebrities following them in their public and private life. The obsession towards celebrities’ snap is a fascinating and feared byproduct of pop culture.

This is a part of celebrity journalism but bit different from yellow journalism. This article discusses a captivating theme for some while a horror for others — paparazzi.

Celebrities are gazed upon, chased and stared at so they are on the radar of ravenous paparazzo who can fetch handsome cash over a single coveted photograph or money shot.

There has been constant criticism of the press crossing the bounds of propriety and decency but the competition among the paparazzo to get a sensational snap has led them to cross their boundaries that got impetus by weak privacy laws and the misuse of high advance technology.

Massimo di Forti and Marguerite Shore’s article Flash warning: The Paparazzo are coming, explains the age of aggressive photojournalism as paparazzi went around with their cameras’ flash always on in pursuit of their prey.

Forti and Shore called “Flash” as a paparazzi weapon used by paparazzi with cynicism, imprudence and merciless skill as working in groups to trap their unsuspecting prey between two lines of fire.

Thus paparazzi used every possible trick to achieve their ends. These authors discussed mid-1950s scandals, scoops and the quest for shocking images, which became high in demand.

There was also an expansion of glossy magazines and the perception that the audience owned the celebrity, and lastly, the huge financial reward soared because of the number of paparazzo.

These photographers make huge efforts to capture pictures of celebrities, public figures and their families in unflattering and sometimes compromising moments.

This has become an obsession for the public to see, share, comment and forward their superstars pictures, so this urge is fulfilled by paparazzi’s who literality prey on the celebrity to get their picture.

As this rapacious hunger for celebrities has mounted, thus the prices of these photos have also soared and the risk to click them has enlarged. Interfering in some one’s life without permission raises the ethical and legal question.

As the problem of aggressive paparazzi mounts, so do their tactics of playing the cat-and-mouse or hunting game. Patrick J Alach’s Paparazzi and Privacy discusses the means used by paparazzi to get a picture for their profit and the concerns regarding privacy.

He discusses how these crazy people hang like chimpanzee near to their subject and be a furtive photographer dressed in camouflage seek to click one picture.

He stated American law provided limited protection to individual privacy compared with Europe.

They justify their act in the name of freedom of the press as they can use aggressive newsgathering techniques and suggested to employ stiffer sanction against tabloids (main income source for paparazzi’s) to take prior consent to publish celebrity’s photograph.

The tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, whose car met an accident because her driver tried to evade paparazzi, became an incident that called for the tightening of European privacy laws.

The tactics of paparazzi endanger the personal privacy and public safety of not just the celebrities but also the masses in high speed chase like that of Princess Diana.

In a similar vein, another article Privacy, Technology and the California “Anti-Paparazzi” Statute published by The Harvard Law Review Association, discusses the free and unrestrained press has been thought to be the hallmark of American liberty, although the freedom of press is a debatable topic.

The article discusses several complaints in regards to intrusive, harassing and mercenary tactics adopted by tabloid photographers so there is a need to maintain a balance between people’s right to know versus a person’s right to privacy.

Ray Murray’s article Keeping the paparazzi an arm’s length away states in general that the paparazzi thinks that “we don’t care, we’ve got a job to do and money to earn.

These people earn a tonne of money because the public pays to see their movies or buy their music, therefore they’re public property. Celebrities are quite happy to be photographed when they have a movie coming out. Celebrities bring it on themselves by behaving badly.

“We make celebrities more famous, therefore more successful. Celebrities actually like being photographed, but they pretend that they don’t.

“Celebrities want you to photograph them when they’re on the way up but not when they’re stars. We don’t care, we’ve got a job to do and money to earn.”

It’s normal for the paparazzi follow the celebrities because they have a task at hand, they climb roofs or trees but sometimes press fire alarms or bomb threats to get a glimpse of their target.

Celebrities usually do not prefer their pictures in unflattering situations to become public as they want to present themselves as perfect. But sometimes, because of professional commitments or getting undue publicity, they share these to catch public eye.

As per Murray’s article, photographers have to be agile and watchful to catch the “spilling cleavage, the ungainly yawn, the drunken pratfall or ill-advised strut”.

Many anti-paparazzi regulations and laws have been made to preserve their safety and privacy but tackle with unruly behaviour of paparazzi.

Gary Wax’s Popping Britney’s personal safety bubble: Why proposed anti-paparazzi ordinance in Los Angles cannot withstand first amendment scrutiny, explains that celebrities themselves want to enjoy both worlds, seeking out cameras when they need limelight and sashing the same on the ground when they annoy them.

In addition, internet blogs fuel growing consumers’ demand for candid celebrity images. Thus, the author explains lawmakers find it a tedious task to tame the aggressive photographers as a huge reward is given for capturing revealing photographs.

Thus, getting a snap by any means necessary and they sell their photos to the highest bidder depending on the quality, subject, situation, sensitivity and rarity.

The debate on whether the paparazzis have too much freedom goes on where some are in favour while others are against but the real solution is yet to be resolved in future.

* Dr Sakul Kundra is an assistant professor in history at FNU. Views expressed are his own and not of this newspaper or his employer. For comments or suggestions, email.

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