Through the lens of a paparazzo and photographer: Where does the one draw the line?

Through the lens of a paparazzo and photographer: Where does the one draw the line?

A look at several changes that have been made in photography over the last two centuries and where to draw the line between paparazzi and photography

Neha SinghUpdated: Saturday, August 19, 2023, 10:04 PM IST
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Today, clicking pictures is as easy as a cakewalk. But have you ever imagined that two decades ago, this was a dream of many? Almost 200 years ago, the prototype of a camera was constructed from a basic box that captured blurry photographs. Since the invention of photography, advances in technology have led to the high-tech minicomputers present in today’s DSLRs and smartphones.

Earlier, photography was to capture good moments of life so people could see the picture and remember the moments. However, the meaning of a photograph has changed a lot and it differs from person to person. Now, photography has become a lifestyle. From clicking pictures during happy moments like birthdays, weddings, and baby showers to clicking and recording sad moments. People do record their sad moments, as it helps them document their lives and understand them better. “The photography industry has evolved over the years like any other industry. I think we will see a big evolution coming for people taking it up professionally. People who are shooting stills are also looking at shooting video, and it's a good idea as your range of opportunities will increase. You’ll still capture moments, they may also be in motion,” points out veteran advertising photographer Atul Kasbekar. 

As photography has become a part of our lifestyle, many have noticed that paparazzi have become a part of it too. We get updates on celebrity life details like where they got spotted, in which restaurant they are visiting, etc. Recently, the grand opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai saw the attendance of several Bollywood and Hollywood stars. However, the Indian paparazzi stole the limelight from the event. From calling Tom Holland ‘Ae Tommy’ to a discussion on how to pronounce Gigi Hadid’s name, several moments from the red carpet have gone viral. B-Town celebs were also not spared. While Ananya Panday was called ‘Annu’, a pap told Rashmika Mandanna, ‘Tu Srevalli main Borivali’ (referring to her character in Pushpa: The Rise).” Apart from this, there are several news stories about them.

Varinder Chawla, possibly one of the most successful paparazzo in the business today (2.2 million followers on Instagram), has built an empire of an increasingly affluent audience’s hunger to know and ape how the stars live. He has been in this industry for more than 26 years, and he recalls how paparazzi started gaining popularity. “As long as I remember, celebrities used to mention that they did not need media at their parties or events like weddings, birthday parties, etc. Then paparazzi photography started. Then, we started covering Shah Rukh’s parties and many celebrities’ events at night. During that time, when celebrities used to come in cars, we started clicking pictures of the cars too. Slowly, slowly, night party coverage was converted into day coverage, then gym, restaurant, airport, it has started and it has been grown only.”

Individuals who click candid pictures of celebrities are considered as paparazzi, not photographers. Varinder mentions, “Nowadays, individuals prefer calling themselves paparazzi. I think paparazzi is not photography. Photographers know many technical aspects of the camera, like light, angle, backdrop, etc. But paparazzi have to click pictures without considering the light, intensity, or background, even if it is not a good picture as long as the celeb’s face is visible.”

On the contrary, Atul opines, "Paparazzi photography is a form of photography. There are so many disciplines and specialties in photography; industrial, fashion, food, hotel/interior, travel, portrait photography to name a few. Paparazzi is but another form and it deserves it’s fair share of respect.”

Over the years, many users have noticed that the quality of paparazzi pictures has degraded. “Five years ago, we used Photoshop to correct pictures. Because clients wanted quality over quantity. Now, clients want quantity over quality. People’s tastes have changed, and they consume new content within seconds. People’s requirements are more about the content than the quality,” Varinder reveals.

Whether you hate them or love them, the paparazzi exist because we are hungry for the content that they can only produce. The paparazzi will continue to follow, or, as Fellini famously put it, “like a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging,” as long as we want to see Malaika Arora leaving the gym, care about who Tiger Shroff dined with and where, or pay attention to what Neetu Kapoor has to say about her grandchild.

Whether it is paparazzi or photography, one has to bring a unique perspective to the photograph. Professional photographer will always have something unique or artistic about their pictures.

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