Justin Bieber's wanted for questioning by police after he and a photographer trying to take pictures of Bieber and his famous girlfriend Selena Gomez had a confrontation at The Commons at Calabasas shopping mall outside Los Angeles on Sunday. As TMZ reported, "The photog had been blocking Justin's car as the singer was trying to leave. Justin got out of the car and asked the guy to move away but he wouldn't, and a scuffle ensued." The photographer was eventually transported by the Los Angeles County Fire Department to a local hospital, although it seems unlikely that the pint-sized Bieber could inflict much pain on a man who reportedly holds a black belt in karate.
The incident once again highlights the strange relationship between celebrities and the photographers who follow their every move in order to get a shot they can sell to news organizations. These images are worth hundreds, thousands, or, in the case of wedding or baby photos, even millions of dollars today. How did we get to this point? According to NPR, the phenomenon originated in post-World War II Italy, where lots of American movies were being filmed because it cost less than making them stateside, so lots of movie stars were always spotted milling around. Italy's high unemployment rate mean that lots of men without jobs were around, too, and they soon realized that they could make money by turning a camera on the actors. They could make even more money if they forced a confrontation with one of these stars. Legendary Italian director Frederico Fellini gave the celebrity-trailing pack of photogs a name when his 1960 film about a journalist, "La Dolce Vita," featured a photographer named Paparazzo.
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The decades since have seen a huge increase in the number of news organizations that use those images — and not just those focused on celebrity news, such as omg!. In part, to feed this appetite for candid images of famous faces, the men and women behind the cameras have become increasingly aggressive in pursuing the perfect shot. They often yell out questions or comments at the celebs to try and invoke a response, and can often be quite dangerous when they're trailing behind stars on the road. We all remember Princess Diana's shocking 1997 death in a car crash following a high-speed chase in Paris that was blamed on the paparazzi. However, Peter Howe, the author of the non-fiction book Paparazzi, told NPR last year that the tragedy couldn't be pinned only on the people with the cameras. "A lot of the people who were most vocal about how awful those photographers were to be chasing her were exactly the same people whose obsession with her had been fueled by similar photographs, and who'd bought magazines with pictures of her in them time and time and time again," Howe noted. "So it is a very complex relationship. The celebrities themselves who are the subject matter ... they will tell you how awful these people are, but they will also use them whenever it is convenient for them." Celebrities, who chose a career in the spotlight, are thankful for the cameras at red carpet premieres of their latest movies, for example. And some of them who desperately want publicity — former "Hills" stars Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag come to mind — have even been known to call the paparazzi themselves.
But sometimes, celebs are not in the mood to smile for the cameras. Less than three weeks before the Bieber incident, Halle Berry lashed out at photographers outside her daughter Nahla's school in L.A. Berry, whose confrontation was caught on video, later explained that some of the paparazzi had come too close to her daughter. The Oscar-winning actress opened up about the incident in an interview with "Extra." "I hate that I lost my cool, but you know, I'm human," Berry said. "That happens and when it comes to my daughter — I'm ferocious." Berry later told "Access Hollywood" that she planned to talk to L.A. law enforcement officials particularly about paparazzi photographing children. "I am going to get together [with some people] and figure out what we can do at our local level in Los Angeles because it is becoming child exploitation," she said. "Our children should be off limits. They are innocent little babies that don't need to be exploited all over these magazines. I'm fair game. I get it. But my kids, kids at my daughters school should not be harassed like that. It's just wrong, wrong, wrong." Berry is reportedly interested in moving to France, the home of her actor fiance Olivier Martinez, where laws regarding the paparazzi are more strict.
Of course, plenty of other celebrities have clashed with photographers through the years — and it had nothing to do with their children. In 2010, Russell Brand famously shoved a man behind the lens shooting him and Katy Perry at Los Angeles International Airport. That same year "Transformers" star Shia LaBeouf threw hot coffee on a paparazzo in Washington, D.C. Two years earlier, Kanye West took a camera from a photographer and smashed it. A newly-bald Britney Spears infamously attacked a photographer's car with an umbrella in 2007 in L.A. Back in 1986, future Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn dangled a paparazzo from a ninth-story balcony after he found the man hiding in his hotel room on the Chinese island of Macaco. (Penn claims that he escaped from prison, and has since been pardoned from a charge of attempted murder.) And the list of confrontations between celebs and the paparazzi goes on and on and on...
Whose side are you on in the battle between celebrities and the paparazzi? Do you think being followed by photographers is just something that comes with the price of fame, or does today's paparazzi go too far?