Content is King Assignment

eye-ron-galella013Photo:  Steve Eichner

A Quick Introduction to paparazzo Ron Galella

“He did for the living what Weegee did for the dead.”  Gradon Carter

The late Weegee’s legacy is capturing crime and murder scenes during the 30’s and 40’s, mostly for tabloid journalistic purposes. Someone in your Photo 1 class probably covered the late Weegee for their critical thinking assignment and presentation.

Instead of focusing on crime and murder scenes like Weegee, Galella turned his camera towards celebrities. The start and height of of Galella’s career was in the 60’s and 70’s. He is the most famous paparazzo and it’ s seems to be due to Ron’s photography, tabloid celebrity gossip publications became so popular with members of the public.

Sometimes Galella captured celebrities at less than flattering moments, yet he aimed to record them staying true to their actual personalities, with some glamour. While he was often considered a pest or a nuisance, he opened up a whole new world of photography and helped ensure certain celebrities stayed famous. The late Marlon Brando broke his jaw!  The helmut in the photo above, is part of that story.   Jackie Kennedy sued him. He was also known for bribing various celebrity staff for inside information about their habits and routines. While he could be a nuisance and a little unethical to get shots, there is no doubt Ron has skill as photographer. The late Andy Warhol is quoted saying:

“My idea of a good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person doing something infamous.  That’s why my favourite photographer is Ron Galella.”  

Spoiler Alert! One of the things I found really amusing in the documentary was Ron’s advice for students. I took some notes during a re-watch of Smash His Camera.  The documentary crew included a snippet of M.D. Psychiatrist Kerry Sukowicz suggesting Ron’s advice should be re-labeled “How to be a sociopath.” D.C. would agree with the doctor.   These techniques are listed for entertainment.

Ron’s Advice for Students

  1. Crash events. Learn to sneak in.
  2. Always dress right. Wear a suit.
  3. For any event, never check your coat. Leave it in the car.
    This way you look like you belong there or staff taking a break.
  4. Know where the kitchen is. (You might need it as part of your exit!)
  5. Forge credentials. (Ron seemed to be well known at his local copy shop!)
  6. Shoot fast!
    Go for the “Surprise Expression”. Look at the subject while shooting. Make eye contact instead of looking through the lens. Use a wide angle lens.
    The last technique is the art of paparazzi. Ron says “You have to be one up on these people”. If a celebrity says no or you have to flee the scene, you already have the shot!

There you have it. A basic student intro to Ron Galella. Wouldn’t it be funny if we could have a paparazzi assignment on D.C.’s campus?   I giggle at the though of students sneaking into offices and capturing surprised looks on faces all over campus in black and white, but smart enough to know none of us are quite like Ron.

If you want to see more quotes from Ron – clik.


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