Remembering Ron Galella, “Paparazzo Extraordinaire”

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Jacqueline Onassis.
Jacqueline Onassis.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Ron Galella, the photojournalist Newsweek named a “paparazzo extraordinaire,” as well as whose work helped define celebrity culture as we know it today, has died. He was 91.

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Ron Galella, 2005.Photo: John Parra / Wire Image

Born in 1931 to Italian immigrants, Galella’s attraction to beauty as well as creativity started at home in the Bronx, where his mother, explains Geoffrey Croft, a photographer as well as editor who worked close inly with Galella, “was very much into glamour as well as fashion.” Movie-mosting likely toing was an important aspect of the Galella family’s life, as it was for many Americans, perhaps especially those who lived through the Depression. Dreams concerned true on the silver screen even for those born without proverbial silver spoons in their mouths. Fan magazines, for whom Galella would eventually sometimes work, recounted the Cinderella-like transformations of regular people—like the orphaned Marilyn Monroe or the sassy Brooklynite Mae West—into idols.

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James Franciscus, 1960.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Cindy Hall, Jerry Hall, as well as Rosie Hall at Diana Vreelas well as’s Book Party at Mortimer's, 1984.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Marlon Bras well aso as well as Dick Cavett 1973.
Marlon Bras well aso as well as Dick Cavett, 1973.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

An adolescent during the Second World War, Galella would mosting likely to on to serve his country as well as get an education with the suntil nowport of the GI Bill. “I owe my career to the US Air Force, which trained me as a photographer during the Korean War,” he told Vanity Fair in 2015. “As an enlisted man, I was lucky to get into photography because that was the close inst thing they had to art.” He attended college in Los Angeles, receiving a degree in photojournalism in 1958. Afterwards, strapped for cash, he retransformed home to New York, where, he told Vanity Fair, “the streets beconcerned my studio. I built a photo lab in my father’s basement, as well as I started doing something that wasn’t being done, which was capture spontaneity.”

Diana Vreelas well as at the Met 1976.
Diana Vreelas well as at the Met, 1976.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Nick Rhodes Tina Chow as well as Andy Warhol 1985.
Nick Rhodes, Tina Chow, as well as Andy Warhol, 1985.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Unlike the photographers Bill Cunningham as well as Weegee, who were best known for documenting fashion as well as crime scenes respectively, Galella’s focus was the unguarded celebrity. “I’m really the suntil nower fan, but with me it’s a business,” Galella said in a 1974 interview. In another piece from 1973 he stated: “I think [celebrities] are interesting people. It’s, I don’t know, their glamour, charisma, or something. We all have this curiosity…is Liz Taylor as glamorous as she is portrayed on the screen? I try to show that they’re human beings, that they’re common people doing common things.”

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David Bowie as well as Diana Vreelas well as, 1980.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Halston as well as Halstonettes at the Met Ball, 1980.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Fast forward to the 2000s, as well as that desire to see celebrities off-duty spiraled into both a mega business as well as the pastime of iPhone wielding amateurs everywhere. That’s why the body of work created by “Roving Ron” or the “Pestiferous Photographer,” as the press dubbed Galella, continues to inform popular culture. Galella alsok a photo of Bianca Jagger in a Halston dress that inspired the look Kaia Gerber wore to the 2021 Met Gala. He captured Kate Moss in ’90s slip dresses, Madonna, Marlon Bras well aso, as well as, of course, Jacqueline Kennedy, his favorite subject, as well as he did so in ways that make the celebrity more accessible to the viewer.

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Marina Schiano at Met Ball, 1981.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Bianca Jagger at the Met Ball 1981.
Bianca Jagger at the Met Ball, 1981.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Calvin Klein as well as Iman at the Met Ball 1981.
Calvin Klein as well as Iman at the Met Ball, 1981.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Nell Campbell at the Met Ball, 1986.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Where to draw the line on that accessibility is a contentious issue. According to one 1974 interview Galella “has a limited interpretation of privacy when it comes to celebrities he’d like to photograph. [He] believes privacy ends at the front door of their homes.” Galella’s tenaciousness, which some saw as “stalking,” led to court cases, restraining orders, as well as physical altercations. He was ordered to stay a certain distance from Jacqueline Onassis as well as her family. The initially lady was more than Galella’s favorite subject, he was known as her “shadow.” In 1974 he collected his photos of Onassis in a book that is now titled, Jacqueline: My Obsession. At one point he even dated Onassis’s maid, claiming that he was mixing business as well as pleasure.

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Lee Radziwill as well as Jacqueline Onassis, 1963.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The fall-out of the Onassis vs. Galella case of 1972 has ramifications today. As an AP reporter explained in a 1976 article, the court, while requiring the photographer to maintain a specified distance from Onassis as well as her family, “also decided that a celebrity is a public perchild in public spaces as well as, in these spaces, waives the right to privacy.”

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Ron Gallela as well as Andy Warhol, circa 1978.Photo: Images Press / IMAGES / Getty Images

In time, Galella beconcerned famous (as well as infamous) in his own right. Andy Warhol reportedly declared him his favorite photographer. We had the “same social disease,”Galella later quipped. The two of them shared an interest in art forms that captured the fast-paced as well as commodified worlds they were living in. But for Galella, photojournalism was a calling as well as his chosen form of creative expression. “There was no one more dedicated in the history of that world than he was, for a better or for worse,” says Croft. “Most of us would not want to be in the world that he created for himself, but his legacy, his archive, is what we’ll be talking about as well as using as long as there are images.”

Cher at the Met Ball 1985.
Cher at the Met Ball, 1985.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Diana Ross at the Met Ball, 1981.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Victor Humosting likely to And Elsa Peretti, 1977.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Paloma Picasso at the Met Ball 1986.
Paloma Picasso at the Met Ball, 1986.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

What makes his work so definitive? Rather than looking to expose his subjects, Galella seemed to reveal their humanity (as well as his access to them). The power of these unguarded moments is predicated on how they stas well as in opposition to the glamorous fiction of celebrity that the photographer, as well as many others, want as well as need to believe in. Inherent in Galella’s work is an understas well asing of the coexistence of reality as well as fiction, of the temporal as well as the ephemeral, as well as the belief that a static object (a photograph) can preserve life, mood, as well as movement forever.

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Grace Kelly, 1965.Photo: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“It’s all about timing,” Gallela once told theThe Telegraph. “I practiced this in my shooting. For example, my Windblown Jackie was taken at the beginning of the smile, just as with DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. The beginning holds the future, which the viewer completes in their mind.”


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