Paparazzi Culture

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It’s been 64 years since Paparazzo was born, embodied in the eponymous character played by Walter Santesso in Fellini’s Dolce Vita. It is Fellini’s fictional character that gave its name to this line of work, thus creating the myth of the photographer following celebrities – from the very beginning person and image at the same time. 

The paparazzi culture has been around for many years, even before being given its name, almost as long as there have been celebrities. From princess Diana to Paris Hilton to Britney, dashing spy photographers seem to be able to cause the worst as they seem to become the biggest enemies of the people they stalk, and one of their worst fears. Diana is killed, Paris and Britney become the focus of their very dark and difficult moments, and so many others still fall victim to defamation and gossip, concepts that remain dangerous for us all, mentally but also physically. The world, the community of these celebrities is thirsty for all of this, and it does not end. It is relentless.


Princess Diana is killed in a car accident in Paris and there is no lack of theories surrounding the paparazzis’ role in the incident, as they chased the car. Upon second thought, the paparazzi who chased her all the way made her try to run away from them continuously , as well as from the malevolent public gaze. Although an extremely beloved public figure, she was called the princess of the people because of her character and behaviour, but also because of the constant help she offered. Despite this she also had to deal with this culture, potentially relating to her passing . After the event, many denounce this culture.


Paris Hilton is yet another personality who found herself under the public eye and its mischief. Paparazzis continuous pursuit of the reality pioneer led to an almost personal relationship between the two parties, opening an outpour of comments from them toward the star. The mass media constantly wrote and talked about her relationships and movements until they entered her personal and private life fully. Paris Hilton talks about emotional distress and violation of her privacy, becoming yet another public figure that the world engages with not for the right reasons but to attack and tarnish their reputation. As a woman she is a target of all this even more strongly, as everyone judges her as having free morals, disrespecting her mind and her existence in general.


Britney Spears is another woman, artist and public figure who comes face to face with the harsh world of the media. From a young age she is being followed and all of her weaknesses are projected publicly.In hindsight, as the public we can now comprehend the pop princesse’s struggle at the time. A struggle with anxiety and family relationships we are currently aware of frame this tragic pap-story. The tabloids publicise her visits to clinics and her interpersonal relationships. She faces many times even with humour a very serious situation and surely this becomes an additional burden for her to withhold. In recent years, the support of the world has become important, which until now is debatable.


To what extent can the support of the world still help a man who is under pressure and constantly feels that he is being watched and judged, and that he still has to prove that he is worthy of the sympathy of his audience. This exhibition is neither logical nor healthy, and unfortunately it does not stay at the artistic level but enters the personal lives and plays with the minds of these people who we forget are like all the rest of us. Paparazzi as a profession are constantly judged, celebrities accuse them and often view them as enemies, the public now seems to understand the harm they cause them.

But unfortunately gossip is part of human nature and as long as we don’t stop doing this at all levels and scales nothing will change and human lives will be destroyed. In this way and otherwise, societies are represented on micro-scales and these sizes are correct so that we can learn to become better people, with an understanding of what our neighbor is going through and empathy for pain, mental or physical. Only in this way can one stop the evil that can be caused by something on a larger scale, such as that in the pop industry, by realizing that every small movement contributes to something bigger and possibly more dangerous. 

Human beings are imitative, they can imitate both good and bad. I don’t know if all this bullshit should stop, what serves and what doesn’t, it should definitely be filtered and its limit should be where there is even a suspicion that it starts to harm the person.


And the paparazzis? Who are the people doing this job, harassing celebrities, selling their personal moments to the highest bidder? The most famous and acclaimed of them, Rino Barillari, the king of paparazzi as he is known, photographer of celebrities in their candid moments, who turned 79 this year, has managed to become kind of a celebrity himself. Numerous are also the examples of the film industry itself being inspired by paparazzis, with films like Zulawski’s “The most important thing: Love”.

Apart from the actual persons doing the job, the question, of a more artistic nature, remains: what is their function in this modern myth of celebrities, what do these risky , hyper-active , ever- and everywhere present camera holders actually do in their balancing act between celebrities and public, between broken noses and million dollar shots, between theirs or their subject’s destroyed lives? If we want to be honest, we have to confess, dear reader, that in this ferocious voyeuristic game, with the celebrities and their private lives behind the bedroom door, it is not the paparazzis really hiding and sneaking up on them. It is the public. The paparazzi’s role in the myth is merely that of the keyhole.

Written by Nefeli Papanastasopoulou

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