If you haven’t heard the name Ron Galella, you’ve almost certainly seen his work. Dubbed “the godfather of US paparazzi culture” by Vanity Fair and TIME, Galella was excoriated by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, praised by Andy Warhol, and had five of his teeth knocked out by Marlon Brando. Through June 1, the photographer — who has been called the “most controversial paparazzo of all time” by Harper’s Bazaar — will be debuting a collection of some of his most famous, and infamous, work at Atelier 811 Gallery in White Plains. We caught up with the famed photog to get the inside scoop on his new show and enduring legacy.
What inspired your upcoming show at Atelier 811?
I hope to reinvigorate Westchester’s art scene by reintroducing my iconic and vintage celebrity photographs, taken generally in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s — my heyday of photography. Capturing off-guard photos was easier during these golden days.
How do you feel the paparazzi and celebrity coverage have changed over the years?
The Golden Age of Paparazzi, in the ’60’s and ’70s — when I easily photographed celebrities one-to-one, person-to-person, with freedom to move — doesn’t exist today. That has been replaced by swarms of paparazzi, fans, and security all obstructing the subject. Also, I feel that digital has a drawback: With digital, you capture quantity; film you capture quality. I prefer grain from film to pixels from digital. Now, at 87, I cover only one event per year, the annual Met Gala. I’m always assigned a good spot, next to Entertainment Tonight, where I not only get the fashion shots but candids of celebrities as they are interviewed.
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Why do you think people are so drawn to celebrities?
I believe people are drawn to celebrities for one main reason: curiosity. We all want to know how a celebrity looks naturally, off the movie and television screens. When they are playing a role, we see them as glamorous superstars aided by a team of hair-and-makeup professionals, gallery lighting, wardrobe, and special angles. Most of us yearn to be beautiful, rich, and possibly famous. I look for beauty in people, nature, and more, which results in a positive approach in my pictures.
Who would you say is your favorite person you’ve have photographed and why?
Jackie Kennedy, because she was full of life, always moving about, not posing. She was beautiful from head to toe, with beautiful, distinctive facial features. Today, my favorite is Taylor Swift. She has a sweet, beautiful face and a tall figure.