PhotoEspana is Europe’s largest photo festival and has previously celebrated the work of artists such as Man Ray, Helmut Newton, and Andrewa Gursky. But this year it has teamed up with fashion brand Loewe to present a major exhibition of the works of celebrity photographer Ron Galella. The godfather of paparazzi photography, Galella has shaped modern celebrity culture with his, now iconic, candid photos of some of the worlds biggest stars. Since the 1960s, Galella has opened the private lives of celebrities, such as Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol, and Mick Jagger, to the public, and now PhotoEspana and Loewe will do the same in this seminal retrospective.
Dazed Digital: How would you describe your career?
Ron Galella: My career as a photojournalist was a dream that not only came true, but overwhelmingly so, beyond what I expected. Out of curiosity for the world of glamorous celebrities, I began crashing and photographing premieres like "Guys and Dolls". Then I would go back to my father's house where I built a photo lab to print. I started freelancing and discovered Jackie, my favourite subject. She made me a paparazzo by giving me the qualities I looked for; no make-up, no hairdo, no stopping and posing; spontaneous, off-guard, no appointments. I call it the only game.
DD: What do you think it is about your candid photography that makes the images so iconic?
Ron Galella: My images are iconic because it's all about timing, and catching the peak of an expression or gesture. Bresson called these "decisive moments". I captured celebrities being themselves.
DD: Do you think that has influenced celebrity culture?
Ron Galella: The market for celebrity photos is now the biggest. It grew because people want to know how the beautiful and famous live, especially during common daily activities like shopping, etc.
DD: Did this interest grow out of your work?
Ron Galella: I think my work had an impact on celebrity journalism in that my work reveals more realism and truth than the airbrushed, fake faces, and false romances in fan magazines.
DD: What do you hope to capture in your photography?
Ron Galella: I hope to capture the gamut of human emotions on celebrities' faces. That's why I shoot many pictures and shoot people relating to one another in conversation, etc. Some got away; Marilyn Monroe and Howard Hughes, most notably. It would be great to photograph Jennifer Lopez and her family, but on the beach so I can shoot her butt! I'd also like to get a shot of Angelina Jolie and her many children.
DD: Why do you think your work has been regarded as 'controversial'?
Ron Galella: Only some of my work is controversial, like when I photographed Jackie with John Jr. in Central Park on their bikes. She ordered the secret service agent to take my film and smash my camera, but I refused to allow them. They arrested me, and this began the legal trials. People think Jackie hated me, but that's not true. She just did not want the children to be photographed. She wanted them to lead normal lives without the spotlight.
DD: So how would you describe your relationship with your subjects?
Ron Galella: My relationships with celebrities’ falls into this pattern: Shoot fast to get candid pictures. Never ask permission, or you will get posed pictures. Because I'm well known, and most celebrities like me in reality, it gives me a great advantage. I do not like to call out stars' names for attention. I would rather catch their natural expressions.
DD: Are you an artist or paparazzi?
Ron Galella: I'm an artist that can and has shot all manner of photographs, like interiors, landscapes, architecture, etc, but I specialize in celebrity photography. Paparazzi is a tool to capture those private celebrities like Jackie, Hepburn, Sean Penn, JD Salinger, etc. They are fair game when they are in public.
PhotoEspana 2011 opened June 1. Loewe has also made a documentary celebrating Galella’s career, available on their website