A photographer named Paparazzo in Felinni’s La Dolce Vita is the eponym of the word “paparazzi”. Fellini took the name from an Italian word that describes a the annoying noise of a buzzing mosquito. As Fellini told Time magazine,
“Paparazzo … suggests to me a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging.“
To further than analogy, in the 60s & 70s Ron Gallella was the fictional king bee. The Bronx-born photographer practically invented the paparazzi market in this country. His obsession with getting on-the-go shots of the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor made him famous. It also got him sucker-punched by Marlon Brando, who broke his jaw and knocked out five teeth.
At 85, Galella is now retired. The only event he comes into the city for these days is the Met Ball, the annual celebrity bonanza that is the Costume Institute gala.
His new book, Sex in Fashion, is out now, and he told Vanity Fair,
“I’ve always felt that I’m more than a paparazzo. I’m a photojournalist, that’s what I got a degree for in 1958, from the Art Center College of Design in L.A., after a five-year stint in the Air Force. I worked hard at my craft, too. I was discharged in 1955, went to school, and then in 1958, I came back to my father’s house in the Bronx. I didn’t have money for a studio—like [Francesco] Scavullo, whose father had a building on 65th Street—so the streets became my studio. I built a photo lab in my father’s basement, and I started doing something that wasn’t being done, which was capture spontaneity. Other photographers would do posed and well-lit pictures. I captured celebrities in their environments: at parties, in airports, when they were not aware of the photographer or the camera. This was the real them. That’s what photojournalism is about.
Nowadays the media overexposes the celebrities. There’s no mystery. They have fame but no talent. I think TV is the reason that it created a lot of mediocrity. Edward R. Murrow would turn in his grave to know what was going on. The overexposure of no-talent celebrities. Like all those housewives: they’re beautiful—until they open their mouth. There’s so much mediocrity. Before, they had to have talent, like Bette Davis. They were trained. Even Liz Taylor was trained to be a great star.“
They are great pictures. It’s hard to imagine today’s celebs making a coffee table book, but in 50 years, they’ll probably look interesting. Most things do over time.
(via Vanity Fair)