Three utterly chic shots (and the stories behind them) from legendary photographer Ron Galella’s new book.
Written By Fiorella Valdesolo
We have Fellini to thank for the word paparazzo — in 1959’s La Dolce Vita it is the surname he gave to the photographer character the director described thusly: “Paparazzo suggests to me a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging.” It would turn out to be an apt characterization for future generations of celebrity shutterbugs who pursue their subjects with the incessant persistency of an energetic gnat. In the U.S., the most famous of them all — or as Vanity Fair once dubbed him, “the Godfather of U.S. paparazzi culture” — has always been Ron Galella.
Galella is known for capturing beloved icons like Brigitte Bardot, Natalie Wood and, most notably, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, as well as for the drama that ensued. There were lawsuits, and a broken jaw courtesy of Marlon Brando, because of his often-reckless pursuit of that perfect shot. But it’s those shots (he’s called his most famous, “Windblown Jackie,” his Mona Lisa) that set Galella apart from any of his peers. His images, which always bore the imprint of his fine-art background, endure in a way that no TMZ shot ever could. And in his new book released this month, the ultimate red-carpet paparazzo is revealing the secrets of his success.
Exclusive excerpts from Ron Galella’s new book, The Stories Behind the Pictures: A Guide to the Paparazzi Approach.
“During their seven-year romance in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Julie Christie and Warren Beatty were the most celebrated couple in Hollywood. All the national and international newspapers and magazines wanted photos of the beautiful young duo. I decided to stake out Christie’s Pacific Coast Highway home, in hopes of catching them together. I spotted Julie leaving the house alone and pursued her in a fast car chase. Unfortunately, I lost the race with Julie’s BMW due to the poor performance of my rented Volkswagen Beetle. Later, I spotted her car at a Malibu Market and caught her shopping for groceries barefoot, no doubt planning to share them with her boyfriend Warren Beatty.”
“On September 11, arriving at the Nice airport, I met actor George Sanders, who lived in St. Tropez. As I was taking a few shots of him, he said, “Why are you photographing me? You should be going after Brigitte Bardot.” The following day, I was determined to get pictures of Bardot in St. Tropez. With my cameras exposed, I asked a taxi driver to take me to her house and he refused. It was obvious I was a photographer, and he wanted to protect Bardot’s privacy. I then hid my cameras in my leather mailbag and asked another driver. He assumed I was a mailman and drove me to Bardot’s house on the Mediterranean shore. I rolled up my trousers and waded in the water adjacent to her property to view Bardot and her boyfriend water-skiing. After I’d taken a dozen beautiful photos of Brigitte in her bikini, her angry boyfriend attempted to hose me with water. At that point I departed — without getting wet!”
“Over the course of my 60-plus-year career, one of the many paparazzi techniques I developed and often used with success was to knock on celebrities’ doors and offer them free prints of their pictures. That approach would sometimes pay off with another opportunity for exclusive pictures right on the spot. I got lucky when, on April 8, 1968, Natalie Wood answered her door in Brentwood, California, and invited me in. She said she would be ready for pictures in five minutes, and she was. After taking some fashionable photos of her in front of her house wearing a miniskirt and knee-high socks, she invited me to go shopping along with her in her convertible. I foolishly declined, as I had other doors to knock on and other photo opportunities to make. I regret that decision — no other celebrities answered the door that day!”
FILED UNDER: Top Flight
Best Eyeshadow Palette for a Speedy Transformation
by Mélanie Inglessis, Makeup Artist
by Mélanie Inglessis, Makeup Artist
VIOLET GREY has a file on everything from
the genius of Pat McGrath to
the best eyelash curler in the world.