Welcome to Paparazzi Nation, Ready or Not

As regular readers know, I often defend the paparazzi—especially against the vindictive idiocy of Sean Penn. I believe that paparazzi serve a valuable function for our celebrity-worshiping society. Along with the worship comes a perfectly healthy psychological need to destroy the false idols we create, and the paparazzi let us do that at a safe distance. Feel free to disagree with me.The BuzzFoto agency in L.A. also wants you to know that paparazzi photography is an art form.

As regular readers know, I often defend the paparazzi—especially against the vindictive idiocy of Sean Penn. I believe that paparazzi serve a valuable function for our celebrity-worshiping society. Along with the worship comes a perfectly healthy psychological need to destroy the false idols we create, and the paparazzi let us do that at a safe distance. Feel free to disagree with me.
The BuzzFoto agency in L.A. also wants you to know that paparazzi photography is an art form. BuzzFoto co-founder (and veteran paparazzo) Brad Elterman is producing an exhibition called "Paparazzi as an Art Form," which will be up from February 16-21 at the Seyhoun Gallery in West Hollywood. "We strive to take iconic pictures," says the agency's other co-founder, Henry Flores. (See photo above.) The agency website has a nice video in which the two photographers explain the art of making a great paparazzi image.
Meanwhile, Time.com explains why many non-celebrities are now hiring their own paparazzi. Your personal paparazzo will follow you around and snap away as you exit restaurants and theaters. (It goes without saying that they will start popping their flashes when you walk out of a Starbucks.) Apparently this the latest trend in narcissism:

The trend is driven by the twin obsessions with chronicling one's life and experiencing fame. "We live in a culture where if it's not documented, it doesn't exist," says Josh Gamson, a University of San Francisco professor of sociology who studies culture and mass media. "And if you don't have people asking who you are, you're nobody." University of Pennsylvania sociologist David Grazian, who wrote On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife, calls personal paparazzi reality marketers, who make the act of being photographed more meaningful than the actual photos. "The goal isn't to produce a product," he says. "It's to heighten the experience of the event. In that sense, there doesn't even need to be any film in the camera."

I have to admit that this new development has added a twist to my assumptions about the social need for paparazzi. We love/loathe celebrities, but the idea of celebrity-hood has been degraded. Now, with a little help from personal paparazzi, we can all be celebrities. And in the end we can learn to love/loathe ourselves.
--David Schonauer