Above: Ron Galella on the street, following Jackie Onasis for photographs.
Smash His Camera is a documentary that follows one of the most dedicated paparazzi of all time, Ron Galella. By taking a look at the life and career of Galella, we are introduced to the controversies that are caused by the acts of paparazzi.
Most of what we see in Smash His Camera brings to question wether privacy or our first amendment rights are more important. Ron Galella was known to follow celebrities and do whatever it takes to get photographs of them. He would hide behind bushes, sneak into events, and snoop around to find out where celebrities lived.
He expressed the importance of his own freedom of expression to take photos in public places, and use said photos as he wishes. Ron Galella uses each photo he takes to sell to publications or companies for money; it is his career of choice. So when people started to discourage or avoid him, he faced problems with law suits.
The most known law suit Galella dealt with was against Jackie Kennedy Onassis. This free speech trial that took place in 1972 resulted in a restraining order requiring Ron Galella to stay at least fifty feet away from Mrs. Onassis. It is cases like this that gave Galella a reputation for obsessive and stalker like behavior.
While most of the controversy surrounding Galella happened many years ago, there are still similar cases that deal with privacy vs. freedom of speech today. In 2012, Kate Middleton sued Closer Magazine for invasion of privacy after publishing bikini pictures of Kate on vacation. So did the photographer have a right to take the picture from a public location? Or did he infringe on the privacy of the royal couple by zooming in and snapping these scandalous pictures to make money off of? In the end, the publication was condemned, so privacy took precedent.
It is cases like this that give many journalists a bad reputation. When it comes to free speech versus privacy, privacy tends to win against journalists. Paparazzi in particular look bad to the public eye because of their aggressive and eager mannerisms. This affects journalism as a whole, although it might not seem like it. Paparazzi are journalists of their own breed, and therefore must follow the journalistic code of ethics.
Photographing people in a public place is a part of the first amendment rights, but at what point do paparazzi like Ron Galella go too far? It is hard to say, with all of the gray areas that come with journalism ethics. I personally think paparazzi are entirely capable of violating privacy, and do more often than not.