My idea of a good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person doing something infamous. That’s why my favorite photographer is Ron Galella”. (Andy Warhol)
Foam in Amsterdam is presenting a major exhibition of work by Ron Galella, pioneer of paparazzi photography. This is the man who tormented Jackie Onasis until she sued him.” In the famous 1972 free-speech trial Galella v. Onassis, she obtained a restraining order to keep Galella 50 feet away from her and 75 feet away from her children.
Galella was always willing to take great risks to get the perfect shot. In his in-home darkroom, Galella made his own prints which have been exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in both New York and San Francisco, the Tate Modern in London, and the Helmut Newton Foundation Museum of Photography in Berlin. On June 12, 1973, actor Marlon Brando punched Galella in the face outside a restaurant in Chinatown in New York City, breaking the photographer’s jaw and knocking out five of his teeth on the left-side of his mouth. Galella had followed Brando, who was accompanied by Dick Cavett, to the restaurant after a taping of The Dick Cavett Show earlier that day. Galella hired Stuart Schlesinger to sue Brando and ultimately settled for $40,000. Schlesinger reported in Smash His Camera that Galella received two-thirds, but only cared about getting the message out, “I don’t want anyone to think they can go around punching me if I am taking their picture, get that story out not the money.” The exhibition features photos of stars including Mick Jagger, Jackie Onassis, Greta Garbo, Brigitte Bardot, Marlon Brando, Andy Warhol, Sean Penn, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Penélope Cruz and many more. These photos have appeared in magazines such as Life, Time, Rolling Stone, Vogue and Vanity Fair.
Ron Galella (1931, The Bronx, New York) started his career in the US Air Force. After returning from Korea he attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and graduated in 1958 as photo journalist. In his spare time he started photographing stars attending premières. This became his true passion.
Galella typically doesn’t view his ‘victim’ through his lens; in order to really make contact, he looks right into the star’s eyes. He is also lightening fast, the essence of what he calls the ‘Art of Paparazzi’. By the time the stars have told him ‘no’, he can often do what they have asked – in the meantime, he’s already taken two photos. Galella’s method is seldom without humour. Following a confrontation with Marlon Brando he bought a helmet with the words ‘Paparazzi Ron’.
October 1971 was an important date in Galella’s career. It was a month in which he frequently photographed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. After encountering the photographer for the umpteenth time, the widow of assassinated US President John F. Kennedy and wife, at that time, of shipping magnate Ari Onassis took off running into New York’s Central Park. This photo of her on the run has become a ‘Jackie icon’. Galella’s Jackie-obsession ended with his arrest and a notorious court case that revolved around the question of how far a photographer could intrude on the privacy of a celebrity. For some, however, the photos of Jackie Onassis also provided considerable inspiration, such as for Tom Ford, former designer at fashion house Gucci.
Although Galella did not invent the term paparazzi (Italian for ‘buzzing mosquito’), he is the personification of the word. He redefined the relationship between celebrity and photographer. Jackie Onassis clearly dreaded the cheeky photographer, but other stars were glad to see him or were resigned to his presence. They realised that Ron Galella was a crucial link in stars’ popularity, satisfying the general public’s voyeurism and stimulating magazine sales. Galella is the subject of a 2010 documentary film directed by Leon Gast entitled Smash His Camera. He currently lives in Montville, New Jersey with his wife Betty Burke Galella.
8 june – 22 august 2012
1017 DS Amsterdam
+ 31 20 551 6500