I'm reading an ARC. The finalized title of the book is Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous
Buhl, Jennifer. Shooting Stars: My Life as a Paparazza. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2014. Print.
What is our obsession with "celebrities" that allows a photographer to make 1/4 (or more) of my YEARLY salary on ONE PICTURE? Reading this book let me explore the paparazzi's life from the other side of the lens. I know it is their job, and I'm jealous of the literal pay off.
This book spans a little over two years and is Buhl's memoir of her life as a Paparazza. She is outnumbered, out gendered and a novice. However, she does learn the "craft" of working the celebs and getting the photos that count.
Did you know there are actual "rules" of being a pap? There is a "street code" that Buhl learns the hard way, but learns it, she does. There is a relationship between the paps and celebs, too. Even though the paps are annoying, they also keep the celeb current. There is a balance, though, of too much exposure and too much work to attain the photographs. If a celeb is too hard to get, the paps stop trying (mostly). If the celeb seeks out and fishes for paps, there are too many with the same shot so the photos are worth less money.
She also writes, "The intensity with which people crave fame here is unbelievable. I sometimes wonder if I could make more money as a hired pap who gives nobodies the thrill of feeling famous than I do by going after real celebs" (Buhl 112). I think there once was a reality show of this very nature.
As I knew nothing about Buhl or some of the stars she mentions (I Google searched a few of them while reading), it was interesting to see that my conceptions of the paparazzi are not accurate. Sure, there are the ruthless, chase you down until you smash into the tunnel (Princess Di) types that get the attention, but there are thousands of other picture takers just trying to score the next "big" shot. This book opened my mind to have a new connotation with the word "paparazzi." It was also interesting to learn that many paps are from other countries.
Throughout the book, I kept thinking that Adrian (can't think of his last name now, but the actor played in Entourage) and Buhl would end up together. I was surprised when that didn't happen (at least as of the book's printing).
Buhl's conversational voice in the book lets the reader feel like (s)he is right there, "doorstepping" on the celebs or running down Sunset Boulevard. There are several side stories that I wonder if they make it to the final edition of the book.
When she first begins as a pap, her coworker Simon told her that, "No one is your friend in this business" and that rings true as Buhl realizes "how alone I was I this business--and how this business probably wasn't all that different from any other industry. Few people in our world today stick their necks out to right a wrong, regardless of whether it's for a friend or stranger. The paparazzi are no exception" (Buhl 188). However, she does have one friend, Abbey "this woman I've known only a couple of weeks--is the only pap, after a year in the business, to ever stick up for me" (Buhl 207). WOW!
Buhl quits being a pap when she has her son Charlie. He was born the same day (different year) as my husband. I probably will think about Charlie and Buhl this year on their special day.
So, my mind isn't completely changed about the paparazzi, but at least now when I look at celeb photos, I will not only be looking at the star, but also the photo credit and the nuances of the photo. Is this a "money" shot or just another of a thousand boring photos?