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Friday, 14 May 2010


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I think it is only natural that stars like Sean Penn from time to time just lose control with all those "photographers" chasing their every step.

I understand this particular guy wasn't a paparazzi himself, but how do you tell the difference?

Hey I believe we all have the right to take photos in public places but at the same time I have no sympathy for the paparazzi and completely understand Penn's angry reaction. When I see a story about a security guard harassing a photographer for taking pictures of the sights in public, that pisses me off. But this story not at all.

His "political viewpoints" include supporting dictatorships like the one in Cuba.... It's good to see him "performing" exactly the way he is...

He should have gone with the classic brain-dead actor defense "I was caught up in a role in which I play a photog-stomping rageaholic, and I became so engrossed in my performance I forgot that we weren't filming'" or some such. Seriously, I have no idea why anyone would seek out an actor's opinion on anything.

I do enjoy Sean Penn's work, but we should all remember to keep it at that.

Hasn't Sean Penn been punching photographers since forever (when he was Madonna's hubby)?

There's a wonderful song by Lloyd Cole called Sean Penn Blues, which is all about how he's a sensitive soul who gets goaded into trashing hotel rooms.

http://www.metrolyrics.com/sean-penn-blues-lyrics-lloyd-cole.html (warning, ad-infested lyrics site)

I live in Hollywood, and paparazzi photographers are ruthless. I'm surprised that this kind of thing doesn't happen more often, and it's difficult for me to empathize with these photographers.

I don't even like walking around my neighborhood with a long zoom, because I don't want to be mistaken for one of these guys/girls (it's happened to me before.)

I completely agree with the first comment. I am a street photographer and I am very worried about having my rights of taking photos of people taken away, but if you've ever been around the paparazzi, you'll see that those guys are not helping our image. My rule is "no means no." If someone says "please don't take my picture," I will respect their request and photograph someone else. If someone says "don't you ask before you take someone's picture?" I apologize and explain that the spontaneous moment would be ruined if I did that. Only if someone gets aggressive after I take just one picture of them, I may choose to point out to them that I am well within my rights.

Back to the paparazzi: a ten foot restraining distance that the photographers have to provide should be enforced. It makes me mad when I see video footage of paparazzi with their equipment, belts, and jackets scraping on clebrities' high end cars.

Classic topic Mike. I have no sympathies for the paparazzi of course, Penn could beat the crap out of all of them for all I care (and I know has the physical ability to do this, after all he was married to Madonna). However real photographers know they must be careful when working their assignments. For example, are you hanging with the enemy of the US Army when a helicopter gunship flies by? There is a good chance you are going to be killed. Doing an undercover story on drug dealers when a gunfight breaks out with the SWAT team? You stand a reasonably good chance of assuming room temperature real fast. Doing a story on paparazzi when Sean Penn steps out of the car? Buddy, make a appointment with your knee surgeon fast, and I hope you lined up a good plastic surgeon before you took that assignment.

Searching the web turns up other photos of the encounter. There is one showing an actual kick--with Penn holding onto a white, plastic grocery bag with one hand (you can see the top of the bag in TOP's photos). He looks to be giving the photog (who appears to be snapping away) a girlie kick. One armed girlie kick and the photog goes crying to his lawyer? That puts it all in perspective.


There is no excuse for such violent behavior. None of us get to choose whether we are photographed in a public place. But people who choose a career that puts them in the limelight have even less to complain about.

Although I don't read the kind of publications the paparazzi write for, I defend their right to be paparazzi. (I realize that Jordan Dawes was not a paparazzo, but it appears that Sean Penn felt otherwise).

Sean Penn does put his money where his mouth is. Look up his work for Katrina and Haiti victims. He is anti war and pro civil rights for all. Good things as far as I can see.

He does have an anger problem. I hope he learns to deal with it.

I also have to ask why a persons vocation should matter regarding their right to speak and whether that should be the determining factor in the relevance of their ideas?

We all have light and dark sides to our personalities and ultimately we are complex beings. Lets hope our better angels prevail.

And hope for "good light".

Actually I like the expression captured. My compliments to whoever took it. 2 things from me. No one should be harassed but when you have the talent and desire to be a star do realize photographs, fanfare and the like are part of the package. #2 I don't care much for actors, actresses and music stars using their platform to apply political opinion. Is Shawn's opinion better than than of a plumber, nurse, accountant etc? Sure he's entitled to it But damn when Hollywood stars have something to say the media microphones are put in place but quick.

Kevin said:
"I think it is only natural that stars like Sean Penn from time to time just lose control with all those "photographers" chasing their every step."

Joshua said:
".. but at the same time I have no sympathy for the paparazzi and completely understand Penn's angry reaction."

I say:
"What exempts 'celebrities' from the same rules of civil behavior as the rest of us? If they really don't like being in the public eye, why don't they just retreat from it? Is it because they truly believe they are a different species from the rest of us?

Kevin and Joshua, do you believe that Sean Penn is exempt from the common norms of moral behavior? I don't!

"Kevin and Joshua, do you believe that Sean Penn is exempt from the common norms of moral behavior? I don't!"

I don't either. You can't just walk up an attack someone because you don't like the legal activity they're engaged in. Another case of justice being done.

Although I will say I was bemused at the irony of the restraining order. Penn attacked a guy because he wanted him to stay away from him, and he got a court order to stay 100 yards away from the guy. Who exactly is being punished with that? And does that mean the photographer can't come within 100 yards of Penn either? And how does Penn obey the order if the photographer is chasing him? Kinda funny. Or at least slightly strange.


And by the way, who exactly is Sean Penn? I've admitted I'm woefully ignorant of movies, but I've never seen one of his. (That's why I had to look him up on imdb.com.)


If Dawes was in fact documenting the paparazzi, and not one of them, he should have found a way to make that clear to Penn: dress differently, behave differently, etc. Then again, with Penn, it might not have helped.

Let's remember that this isn't a paparazzo that Penn attacked: It is a documentary cameraman. This sounds like it might be the film that I worked on: "Teenage Paparazzo" which has screened at Sundance this past year. I shot for several days on the project, following the little brat around (the paparazzo - not Penn) and politely declined addition offers to shoot for the project. Because of the TMZ effect, many paps are shooting video now and yes, I blended. I was called many vulgar things by passing cars even though I was following the kid - not the people he was stalking.

I didn't take any more shoots with the project because the kid was a brat and people rushed to judgment that I was a paparazzo as well.

However, making a film about the underbelly of pop culture and the people that work it does NOT justify having an actor cause physical harm to you or your gear.

So Joshua - you SHOULD be pissed that going out and documenting something on camera can get you assaulted. It is similar the the graffiti artist photographer from a few days ago: You are saying that he is as guilty as the paps because he is with them. Don't combine people doing slimy things with those that are telling the story of their slimy actions. That is what documentary photography or filmmaking is about.

Pat C, you misunderstood what I said, or perhaps my foreign use of english got the better of my intentions.

Anyway, I meant to say I think it is to be expected people like Sean Penn lose their nerve every now and then, because of the hordes of Paparazzi chasing them 24/7. I'm not saying he has a right to do this, I'm just saying we shouldn't be surprised when things like these happen.

So no, I do not think Sean Penn is exempt from the common norms of moral behavior, but if I was in his position, I don't think I could stay cool-headed all the time either. His behavious is very understandable, I think.

Oh, and Mike, re: who exactly is Sean Penn. He is quite well known - but maybe less so in Mid-west US. If you want to see some of his work, I would suggest The Assassination of Richard Nixon, 21 Grams or Mystic River.

Dear MJ,

I gotta say I agree with you; actors and media personalities who use their fame and fortune as a step up to a bully political pulpit are a plague on civilization.

As soon as I finish my time machine, I plan to exercise some retroactive justice and erase the political careers of Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson, Charleton Heston and Sonny Bono from the timeline. California and the country will be much better off.


Now, taking my tongue out of my cheek, here's the reality of the world as it's always been:

Fame, fortune and power go hand-in-hand. Any one of them will give you some measure of the other two. And in combination they give you Influence and the Ear of the Public. Always have. And news sources are always eager to repeat what any of the Influential have to say.

Do you really think actors are less entitled to exercise that influence than anyone else who has it? Or is it that you just don't like what some of them say?

pax / Ctein


Kudos for your tongue-out-of-cheek comment.

Frankly, I couldn't care less what most "celebrities" have to say, although I will say that many more of them are willing to put their money and influence behind the causes they believe in vs. the smarmy politicians whose primary skill appears to be the ability to talk out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.

Since the "media" is only interested in the opinions and sound bytes of the "political elite" and celebrities, I would rather they give us both categories of propaganda/opinion instead of limiting it to the politicians that are mouthing the story-lines of their benefactors (aka deep pockets) that purchase influence behind closed doors.

Maybe part of Sean Penn's rehabilitation could be publicizing the plight of the non-Paparazzi photographers that are being harassed and threatened when taking photographs as street photographers of bridges, public buildings, and structures that are plainly visible by the public.

I'm still waiting for the FBI to show us a single "terrorist" they arrest with his SLR or medium format camera in hand taking shots of their next intended bombing.

- Craig

Around 1980 I was working doing photographs of celebrities, mostly at parties, openings, and places like studio 54. Back then it was all very friendly, and I'd end up chatting and hanging out with them. The funny thing was that I had no idea who most of them were, I'd just take photos of anybody who looked like they were expecting to be photographed. The guy I was working for was always amazed that I got photos of Italian soap opera stars that other NYC photographers hadn't recognized, but of course I hadn't recognized them either.

Sounds like a sucky business to be in now, although the pay is a lot better.

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