I should clarify one thing...about the previous post, Tom Duffy asked, "Why are you wasting your time with this? The Paparazzi have as much to do with photography as house painters do with artists...."
Naturally, my concern isn't really with celebrities. But I think the post about the surfers confronting the photographers of Matthew McConaughey [I know how to spell it now, dammit, and I'm going to use my knowledge...] indicates a problem. The excesses of the Paparazzi are clearly creating a perception problem with the public for photographers in general. Watching videos of "celebrities" on television being beset by hyper-aggressive hordes of photographers (itself an embodiment of the culture it pretends to decry, pace Alexander Vesey) does indeed instill a sense of outrage, even in me. Apparently at least a few of our readers even feel that mob violence is justified as a response. That's a potential problem for everybody who wants to be out and about with a camera.
I think it's pretty clear that my "modest proposal" below is untenable, both for Constitutional as well as practical reasons. And it violates fairness norms, which I'm almost never in favor of doing (laws should apply equally to everybody).
I actually have little interest in actors, except as actors. My feeling is that the "star" concept often disfigures movies, because "name" stars who can't act are cast in roles that require acting ability ("never see a movie in which Kevin Costner speaks with an accent" is one good basic rule of thumb), or because it makes it harder to see the character past the personality. (I once wrote a send-up of Jack Nicholson called "Actors Needed." The supposed premise was that there clearly weren't enough actors in America because such a small number of them had to be re-used again and again. I went on and on with things like, "So, was he an astronaut before or after he worked as a border guard? And how does a guy with a lobotomy get to be commander of the American garrison at Guantanamo Bay, anyway?" As Craig Ferguson says, made meself laugh, and that's half the battle.)
(While I'm digressing, I also think it's a shame that talk shows have been so badly eviscerated by actors. The same big corporations that own the movie studios now own the networks, and they want to leverage their assets for promotional tie-ins, so they force talk show hosts to interview actors who are promoting movies. The actors, for their part, are contractually bound to promote the films they've acted in by appearing on the talk shows. The net result for talk show viewers is that they have to watch an endless succession of people who don't want to be there being interviewed by people who aren't really interested in interviewing them. If I ever had a talk show, it would have one hard-and-fast rule: no matter what, no actors.)
Still, all of us have an interest in public perception of photographers as a whole, just as we have an interest in government persecution of photographers for alleged-but-unprovable links to "terrorism." Many of us have experienced situations in which the camera is a carte blanche, opening doors and commanding respect. Public sentiment might be turning. You might not care about Paps or celebs at all, but the entrenched public attitudes towards the Paparazzi—including latent anger and outrage—does have a net negative effect on all of us, on our status, and on our work.
P.S. David Bennett's comment made my day! Very funny.
Featured Comment by Roger S: "Here's my idea for celebs annoyed by 'paps' following them to the club, bar, home, etc. Wear battery-powered slave flashes that go off whenever they get flashed. With a couple of those pointing back at the cameras, the photographers won't get any shots—just brilliant flashes of light into their lenses."
ADDENDUM: It seems we may have annoyed several actual Paparazzi with these last couple of posts. So let me just say that we're not talking about any particular photographers, and doubtless many celebrity photographers are good photographers, decent people, and responsible members of society who never engage in the worst practices of their compatriots. May I be allowed to return to my peaceful, quiet, humdrum life now? —MJ