The Price Of Shooting Stars - Publication: LA Weekly February 2010
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a familiar story, one constantly affecting the icons Angelinos have come to
love, hate and ignore - tortured celebrities complaining of persecution at the
hands of the paparazzi, those legions of marauding parasites causing chaos on
the streets as they brazenly profit from candid images of actor/actress X
going about their off screen business.
this dated cliché does beg correction. Just like the latest tabloid cover “scoop,”
beckoning from any one of several magazines and or websites occupying this
dangerously oversaturated niche.
put the money issue first - Paparazzi (or papps as they are known in the biz)
were once lured by the promise of big dollars, hence the risk and ensuing
lawless behavior. From running lights and driving at breakneck speed to
tailgating a celebrities through to hiring helicopters for an “aerial,” a boat
for a beach shot, or flying to an exotic resort and renting a neighboring hotel
room – all in the name of getting a shot that once promised hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
while the global hunger for celebrity culture will always see a demand for
content (both in print and online) the prices offered for celebrity photographs
has plummeted drastically in the last three years largely due to the recession
and a glut of photographers.
sources at pic agencies and magazines say images that once sold for $1500 (
equating to half of quarter a page in a magazine ) now sell for as little as
$150. So without the incentive, photo agencies aren’t investing big on
obtaining shots, magazines are reusing old pics and generally earnings are way
in yet another trademark Hollywood smack of irony, the first week of January
saw several full page stories about new paparazzi laws reverberate nationally
having first germinated in the LA Times. These new laws (or amendments to
existing laws, i.e. Assembly Bill 524, effective from Friday (01Jan10),)
championed by celebrity Jennifer Aniston were being hailed as a harbinger of
change, “restricting the paparazzi in 2010 and beyond.” or so claims Democrat
and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, who told The Times, Aniston's activism was
instrumental in the new laws , with the actress' horror stories prompting her
to fast track the legislation.
images of The former Friend topless sunbathing in her backyard emerged in
2006, poor Jen was apparently so incensed she had to act, schmoozing with
every political figure on her Blackberry to bring justice to this town.
Aniston commented after the passing of the legislation, "There have to be
some boundaries. When you have children in the car and the photographers are
rushing you, it's just absolutely out of control."It's become a public
safety issue. Somebody's going to die if we don't do something."
Karen Bass said she wrote the bill after Aniston and a group of celebrities she
assembled helped her to understand just how bad the Los Angeles paparazzi
problem had become.
other than giving our Jen some additional press how effective is the law and
will it have any real effect on the wayward papp photographers of LA?
photographer Jeff Rainey runs a news agency catering for UK outlets. Having
been in LA over six years he’s shot many celebs. .Asked about the new laws, he
feels they are generally “superfluous and insubstantial.”
is a point that some photographers need to be controlled, but there’s a fine
line between what is newsworthy and what isn’t. It would be hard to prove what
is in breach of these new laws and It would take forever to get through
courts.” Rainey adds, “A few years ago there was another anti paparazzi
initiative when they tried to pass laws preventing papps following celebrities.
It never happened, how could they prove anything?”
La Monde journalist, Regis Navarre, head of one of LA’s biggest photo
agencies, X17 agrees the new laws have little consequence. “Essentially they
relate to something that relates to the whole idea of ‘reasonable expectation
of privacy’. We only shoot celebs when they have that, meaning you can’t invade
their privacy while they are on their property, though you are protected by the
fifth amendment if you shoot them in the street.”
these laws don’t change anything,” Navarre adds. “Nowadays most shooting is
done in the street and with photographers literally following celebrities to
get shots, there is little candid photography.”
says Navarre, “these are simply amendments to laws originally passed in 2000.
The amended laws are simply scare tactics, purely a silent threat. On what
grounds can you sue someone for simply taking a photograph? Maybe if you trespass
on their property, but what will determine whether a celebrity can in fact sue
will be hard to prove.The real issue he says relates to issues such as traffic
says the laws are particularly ineffective as the whole dynamic of celebrity photography
has changed. “the era of candid and covert photography has gone. Nowadays with
companies such as Time Warner financed TMZ employing hundreds of people to
follow celebs everywhere, there are fewer and fewer exclusives and calculated
Jones is a UK born photographer in LA for the last ten years. Keen to escape
the stigma of being known as a papp, he opts for an assumed name for this
story. Another victim of the world recession he recently made the switch back
to freelance, while a year ago he had his own pic agency commanding a six
got into this for the money, though the gold rush is over,” he says “The volume
of photographers, the internet and the recession has brought the asking price
of photographs down and really makes it far less lucrative.”
new laws come at an odd time, with less financial incentive, photographers are
far less likely to go to great extents to obtain snaps. I don’t think these
laws will affect me or any other photographers in any way, things really aren’t
any more lawless than they once were, in fact it’s probably the reverse.”
agrees the era of candid snaps are gone. “Once an agency would invest in a
hotel or whatever to ensure a shot, they can’t afford to do that now. Now with
people from TMZ in celebs faces 24/7 the era of candid and calculated
photography is gone. The new laws are really quite pointless.”
Written by Craig