Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Photography is not a crime! Part II

A great photograph shows the famous doing something unfamous. -Andy Warhol

I happened to catch the documentary film, "Smash His Camera," last night on HBO.

The film, which is scheduled to re-run at different times over the next several days, recounts the remarkable career of America's first paparazzo, Ron Galella.

These days, it seems, anyone with enough money for a digital camera and a laptop computer can become an instant paparazzo.

But Galella was the first. And three or four decades after some of his pictures were made, they now sell for thousands of dollars in chic New York galleries.

Once reviled, now at age 79, Galella has finally gained some respectabilty, and has also earned the grudging admiration of those he once sparred with.

Watching the film last night, I was reminded of a line from the movie, "Chinatown," in which a crusty John Huston says, "'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

Galella endured some rough handling along the way - Secret Service agents protecting Jackie Onassis once detained him after he shot pictures of the president's widow - he persisted and countered by suing Onassis and the Secret Service. But he never took his setbacks personally. He just showed up again the next day and made more pictures.

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert describes Galella this way:
"He is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure. Ron Galella, the best known of all paparazzi, lost a lawsuit to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and five teeth to Marlon Brando, but he also captured many of the iconic photographs of his era. At 77, he is still active, making the drive from his New Jersey home and his pet bunny rabbits through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, the prime grazing land of his prey."
And as Galella enters the eighth decade of his life, he has a fine house in New Jersey that sits on top of a basement that contains 3 million of his images.

If you enjoy great documentaries, try to catch this one when it appears again on HBO!

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