Close calls common in paparazzi world, says former photographer
With certain exclusive celebrity photographs fetching a small fortune, one former paparazzo says the desire to capture the perfect shot often overshadows safety concerns.
After a photographer was struck and killed by an SUV in Los Angeles earlier this week when darting across a busy street to capture a shot of who he believed was Justin Bieber, many have called for new rules needed to protect both celebrities and the paparazzi.
Chris Gampat, a former New York-based paparazzo and the current editor in chief of photography website The Phoblographer, told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday that the death may be the wakeup call needed in the industry.
“This is something that actually happens a lot,” said Gampat, who left the paparazzi world because it was too cutthroat.
Gampat said his first assignment in the industry was to capture a photo of actress Julia Roberts and he was almost struck by a tractor trailer in his pursuit.
“I didn’t realize because I was so in the zone,” he said.
However, with a single exclusive shot of a celebrity having the potential to fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, Gampat said the big payout often overshadows safety concerns.
“When you’re a photographer and you need that shot to pay bills, it really just comes down to the photographer trying to make sure that they are constantly aware of their surroundings.”
Following the photographer’s death, many have called for tougher laws governing the industry.
"Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders, and the photographers themselves," Bieber said in a statement released by Island Def Jam Music Group.
The photographer, identified as 29-year-old Christopher Guerra, was struck and killed on Tuesday as he darted across a street after snapping pictures of Justin Bieber's white Ferrari. The teen heartthrob was not in the car at the time of the accident.
After pulling over to snap photos of who he believed was Bieber, Los Angeles police said the photographer was told numerous times that it wasn’t safe to be taking photos in the area.
It wasn't immediately clear how fast the 69-year-old woman who struck the photographer was travelling, but she was not believe to be at fault and was unlikely to be cited, police said.
Much of Hollywood was abuzz about the death, including Miley Cyrus, who sent several tweets critical of some of the actions of paparazzi and lamenting that the unfortunate accident was "bound to happen."
"Hope this paparazzi/JB accident brings on some changes in '13," Cyrus said on her Twitter page. "Paparazzi are dangerous! Wasn't Princess Di enough of a wake-up call?!"
Some veteran photographers told The Associated Press that while injuries are common when chasing celebrities, deaths are rare.
"Here in the state of California, I'm surprised this hasn't happened before," said Giles Harrison, a celebrity photographer and owner of London Entertainment Group.
California State Legislature passed its first anti-paparazzi measure last year, creating hefty penalties that could be paid to celebrities whose privacy was invaded.
With files from The Associated Press