Liz Hurley and Hugh Grant

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
(Photograph) - WHAT'S THE STORY? This is a scene of human suffering - a disturbing image of man's inhumanity to man. For in order to reach the end of the gangway, Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley have no alternative but to walk the full length of the photographers' enclosure. What indignities famous actors must endure!

Well, it's true that many celebrities resent the constant pressure to keep up appearances lest a telephoto lens catches them on the hop. But talk to the hundreds of young hopefuls who have been competing for fame as pop stars in recent weeks - isn't playing to a crowd what it's all about? Don't they crave the attention of the spotlight?

On this occasion, it's perhaps the men on the other side of the barriers who deserve sympathy - the despised paparazzi, whose lives are measured in shutter speeds and whose livelihoods pivot on the chance turn of a glamorous head.

The photographers at the very front - how many hours have they waited in the Cannes sun, heavy cameras pressing on their chests, pushy "colleagues" breathing down their necks, in order to be in that prime position when the stars show?

And that's not the half of it. Even supposing Liz and Hugh look the right way at the right time, there are fickle picture editors to be wooed, inflexible deadlines to be met and, at every turn, a thousand competitors to be fought off. Wouldn't you rather be Liz or Hugh?

The stars and those who bring them to our breakfast tables are, of course, locked into a symbiotic relationship as curious as any observed in the rainforest. For each depends on the other to feed the flame of celebrity, and both depend on us to warm ourselves by the fire.

It was the film director Federico Fellini who gave the paarazzi their name, and the death of Princess Diana in 1997 that blackened it to the point where one press photographer at the scene of an industrial accident was attacked by a mob.

Released in 1960, Fellini's La Dolce Vita portrayed the haute monde in Rome and the activities of Signor Paparazzo, who lived by snapping the rich.

Fellini based him on a photographer called Secchiaroli, and reporters were quick to contact the original paparazzo after the Princess of Wales died fleeing his modern-day heirs.

"The limits (of photographers) should be good taste," the 72-year-old told Reuters. "There is a limit where someone should just say 'stop'. But, on the other hand, I don't see why people try to run away from paparazzi. At a certain point, they should just let themselves be photographed and move on."

But with lenses getting longer and fees for revealing photos getting higher ("One stolen, decent picture from the wedding would make pound;100,000," said John Melhuish at the picture agency Rex Features in the run-up to Madonna's recent wedding in Scotland), moving on is no longer an option.

At Madonna's previous wedding, in Malibu to the actor Sean Penn, those all-important vows were said to have been drowned out by the photographers' helicopters.

Good taste, it seems, can be lacking on both sides.

Photograph by Dave Hogan


Photographer David Bailey's call, following the death of Princess Diana, for a boycott of work by paparazzi: http:dave.bailey.netdiana index2.html.

Debates on the right to privacy of members of the royal family and the Prime Minister's children can be found on the Press Complaints Commission home page: pressindex.asp

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