This was Ron Galella’s New York

At 83, he is considered the totemic paparazzo and for good reason. Ron Galella, after all, is famous for notable celebrity chases through New York City. At the end of one, he had had five teeth knocked out by Marlon Brando. He had taken off in his Pontiac Firebird after the actor and when Brando stopped at a Chinatown restaurant, he beckoned Galella over and sucker-punched him. All that he regrets is that nobody didn’t get a picture of the incident. Brando was stitched up in Bellevue having “his knuckles were infected with my paparazzi germs. And he was in hospital for three days recovering. Someone got a picture of him coming out with the bandage” comments the infamous paparazzo.


Another significant injuction taken againt him was in 1972. After Jackie Kennedy won in court he was ordered to keep his distance from her. He ignored it. She sued back. “At the second trial I was found guilty,” he says in New York Observer. “It was a short trial. One week. I could not photograph Jackie … John Junior … and Caroline forever … and to this day I cannot photograph Caroline. If I photograph her she can take me to court … $120,000 fine … seven years in jail.”  When asked about the paparazzos of today, the people who battle with celebrities, he is not happy. “I think it’s ugly and vulgar. I think to provoke stars to do something unusual is wrong. It’s unethical. I never did that. I capture beauty on their faces.

“Most of these photographers are not even trained in the art. I’m an artist. These people are just doing it for the money. And they even do it wrong. A good paparazzo will hide” he added. He didn’t care about actors that much, though. “I didn’t often see their movies” he commented but art stars where his thing. “Andy Warhol was an exception. Not because of his art. To me his art was secondary. I think his personality and his physical make-up were very unusual. He had a pasty white face. And his wigs. He talked soft. So he was a character that was interesting physically. That’s why I photographed him.” Warhol called Mr. Galella his favorite photographer.

A documentary about Mr. Galella, Leon Gast’s Smash His Camera, which won an award at Sundance in 2010, is so called because that is what Jackie yelled to a bodyguard. An urban myth or not, Ron Galella is the paparazzo far above the stalkerazzi of our times.


Photography by Ron Gallela. His new book Ron Galella, New York can be bought here.

All Images courtesy Ron Galella except cover image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures via here