February 28, 2008

Teenaged Paparazzi

Blaine and Austin, New York Times
Blaine, left, and Austin, right. Photo by Axel Koester for The New York Times

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on the “Rise of the ‘Citizen Paparazzi,’” and the emergence of “regular folk who… happen to bump into celebrities while carrying digital cameras.” One photographer profiled was 18-year old Justin Campbell, an NYC college student, who got his start when he snapped Kirstie Alley eating a pie “right when she was doing the Jenny Craig thing,” and is one of the star photographers of his paparazzi photo agency.

This story follows on the heels of a New York Times article, published last October, that profiled two pubescent friends, Blaine, 15, and Austin, 14, who ran around Hollywood, snapping shots of celebrities alongside older, “sullen paparazzi with rumpled clothes and tired expressions.” Blaine spoke of being pushed to the ground by a bouncer and taunted by celebrities like David Spade, who called him “pipsqueak paparazzi.”

All three teenaged paparazzi are, or have been represented by the Buzz Foto agency, whose tagline is “Paparazzi is an Art Form!” The agency’s owner, Brad Elterman, is quoted in both articles as saying his young protégés remind him of himself when he was their age. (He has since dropped Blaine and Austin, because, “If something happened to one of these kids, I don’t know what I would do.”)

Poignantly, in the New York Times article, Blaine says, “I want to be friends with the celebrities more than take photos of them. I kind of wish I was going to the parties with them.” And later, one of the jaded paparazzi tells him, “There’s no innocence in the paparazzi business, homey. I told you, once you cross over, you’re done. You’re on the dark side, homes.”

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