March 28, 2013
Instagram and the New Era of Paparazzi
Earlier this week, a rare and new photo of the pop star Beyoncé and her daughter, Blue Ivy, quickly spread around the Internet, on various celebrity and gossip sites.
There was nothing particularly unusual about the photo itself: It was a simple shot of the singer, smiling, carrying her sleepy daughter as they exited a restaurant in Brooklyn.
But the paparazzi-style photo did not come from a typical photographer: It came from Instagram.
Raquel Sabz, who goes by the online name “Rich Girl on a Budget,” appears to have posted the photograph on Instagram and Twitter late Sunday night. (The photo has since been deleted from Instagram, although her Twitter post remains online.) Not long after, Splash News purchased the photo for an undisclosed amount and distributed it to a number of sites, including People.com, NYDailyNews.com and The Huffington Post.
Ms. Sabz declined requests for an interview and referred to Splash News for more information about the sale and transactions. Inquiries to Splash News did not result in an interview.
Molly Goodson, a senior editor and the vice president for content at PopSugar, a celebrity news site, was among those who purchased the photograph of Beyoncé with her child.
The average person has eyes in places where regular paparazzi don’t have them, she said. “The whole world becomes a photo agency at that point. More so than ever before.”
Ms. Goodson said that during her six-year tenure at PopSugar, she has seen the rapid rise of Instagram as a popular source for images of famous people in the wild. This is partly because of the spread of smartphones with more-than-decent cameras, and the ability to publish instantly anywhere, anytime, within seconds and reach millions by posting photos publicly across the network of social media sites.
It is also partly because of celebrities who have taken their public images into their own hands and publish photos on Instagram and Twitter, as well as support staffers, like hairstylists and makeup artists, who do the same. Ms. Goodson gave the Oscars as an example, with the first images of celebrities attending the affair trickling out through the Web, rather than through traditional sources.
“That was the first place you would see any dresses or what Jennifer Lawrence is wearing,” she said. “It’s not the photo agency or TV.”
It’s a striking shift from the way those photos were distributed historically.
“The old school way was that you would get an e-mail that said, ‘I was on vacation and saw so-and-so and I’d like to sell it to you,’” she said. “Fans are far less likely to do that now. They’d rather share it themselves first on Twitter and Instagram than sell it immediately. People are dedicated to gaining their own followings and that’s the best way to do that.”
Before, she said, the asking price for photos could stretch into the hundreds of thousands, depending on the rarity of the sighting. But now, because most people see them first on sites like Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, it’s harder to command a hefty price tag. Photos can go for a fraction of their historically high cost, she said.
“It’s certainly devalued by the fact that it’s already out there,” she said.