If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em: Stalking the Paparazzi

Behold
The Photo Blog
Dec. 27 2012 11:00 AM

If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em: Stalking the Paparazzi

Paparazzi photograph Shauna Sand as she comes out of Villa, a popular club in Los Angeles, Nov. 14, 2008. Jessica Dimmock/VII.
Paparazzi photograph Shauna Sand as she comes out of Villa, a popular club in Los Angeles, Nov. 14, 2008.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

Jessica Dimmock believes her series Paparazzi is strangely connected to Nick Ut’s iconic image commonly referred to as “Napalm Girl.”

‘My thought was, if I asked anyone on the street of my parents’ generation about Vietnam, the image of the Napalm Girl would come to mind,” began Dimmock via email. “As for my generation, I can absolutely remember what it looked like when Britney Spears shaved her head—everyone can—it’s this thing that’s bled into our collective conscience. And I think it’s amazing.” You may not agree with Dimmock, but she believes the paparazzi are becoming the creators of “some of the most significant media of our time.”

Dimmock had been working as a photographer for several years during the decline of print media, where her work had largely found a home. When she took a look around to see which forms of print were surviving—and which photographers were making both money and the most iconic images, it was the paparazzi.

Paparazzi clamor for a shot of Jessica Simpson as she comes out of the restaurant Madeo in Los Angeles, Nov. 1, 2008.
Paparazzi clamor for a shot of Jessica Simpson as she comes out of the restaurant Madeo in Los Angeles, Nov. 1, 2008.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

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Dimmock spent 2008 and 2009 hanging out in Los Angeles with a bunch of paparazzi photographers to document the experience of chasing celebrities.

“Hanging out with them was a lot of fun, though not at first,” recalled Dimmock. “I think there is a gendered dynamic that is part of their job. They are all guys, and they chase after these impenetrable objects of beauty, often without any reward.”

“They made it difficult to get in with them, really made me beg. But once I found the right subjects, specifically a Brazilian guy named Carlos and then his friends, it was a lot of fun.”

Carlos looks for his pictures in a celebrity magazine in Los Angeles, April 23, 2009.
Carlos looks for his pictures in a celebrity magazine in Los Angeles, April 23, 2009.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

Murillo naps in the sun after a long night of partying at his friends home in Los Angeles, Sept. 16, 2009.
Murillo naps in the sun after a long night of partying at his friends home in Los Angeles, Sept. 16, 2009.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

Paul lounges in his home with his girlfriend and his son after a day of shooting in Los Angeles, Aug. 12, 2009.
Paul lounges in his home with his girlfriend and his son after a day of shooting in Los Angeles, Aug. 12, 2009.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

One thing that caught Dimmock’s attention was the lack of photography knowledge the paparazzi had.

“They would often see me shooting and say ‘your flash isn’t working’ to which I would respond that I knew that,” wrote Dimmock. “I would then tell them my settings—I’m shooting at f.1.8 at iso of 3,200, often at a 60th of a second—and they would look at me as if I were speaking German. Sometimes a few of them would ask me to show them how I made my pictures look so “artistic,” but then they would revert to the flash and the automatic modes as soon as Jessica Alba walked out of a restaurant.”

Paparazzi attempt to shoot Leonardo DiCaprio as he leaves Club Villa on his birthday in Los Angeles, Nov. 14, 2008.
Paparazzi attempt to shoot Leonardo DiCaprio as he leaves Club Villa on his birthday in Los Angeles, Nov. 14, 2008.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

Ben looks for a car behind the wall of a celebrity's home in Los Angeles, Aug. 5, 2009.
Ben looks for a car behind the wall of a celebrity's home in Los Angeles, Aug. 5, 2009.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

Paul spies on Nikki Hilton from his car in Los Angeles, Sept. 15, 2009.
Paul spies on Nikki Hilton from his car in Los Angeles, Sept. 15, 2009.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

The idea of the paparazzi has certainly changed over the past decade. Many celebrities and their publicists inform the photographers about the whereabouts of a celebrity so they might be photographed. This works when the celebrities are prepared, but the “gangbang” style (a term Dimmock claims many of the paparazzi use when going after a celebrity) of stalking a celebrity still might appear to be invasive.

In terms of privacy and the relationship between the paparazzi and their subjects, Dimmock has firm and unconventional opinions.

“I think celebrities are absolutely bothered by the paparazzi and I kind of have no sympathy for them. I think people often revert to the argument that says how hard it would be to have no privacy, to see paparazzi every time you leave the house, but I can’t buy a carton of milk or walk down Broadway without seeing Angelina’s face everywhere. And at the end of the day she gets to live in a mansion and I just feel bad about having pores. I think they benefit tremendously by the proliferation of their image so I have very little patience when this isn’t done on the terms that they want. Call me an asshole.”

A drunk woman poses for the paparazzi outside of Club Villa in Los Angeles, Nov. 14, 2008.
A drunk woman poses for the paparazzi outside of Club Villa in Los Angeles, Nov. 14, 2008.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

A group of women wait outside a nightclub for the arrival of John Mayer in Beverly Hills, Sept. 16, 2009.
A group of women wait outside a nightclub for the arrival of John Mayer in Beverly Hills, Sept. 16, 2009.

Jessica Dimmock/VII.

Click here to see a film Dimmock made while working with paparazzi at VII: The Magazine.