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Ron Galella (born 1931 in New York) is an American photographer. He is best known for his controversial photos of celebrities and can (according to Time Magazine and Vanity Fair) be considered the “Godfather of the U.S. paparazzi culture”.
Ron Galella Biography
Son of Italian immigrants from Muro Lucano, Ron Galella’s career starts when he serves as a photographer at the United States Air Force during the Korean War (1950-1953). The legend goes that he learned the art of photography while reading a book entitled How to Shoot Glamour. Later on, he attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, where he graduated with a degree in photojournalism in 1958.
Galella tried to capture the personality of celebrities of the 1960s. Very soon, his photos were printed on magazine covers and became a real success. He attended film premieres and showed up at private soirees, where artists, writers, designers and movie stars used to mingle. This is a world apart, also known under the name Jet Set and Café Society.
Even though Ron Galella didn’t invent the word “paparazzo” (which in Italian means “buzzing mosquito”), he surely stands for the concept behind it. His work has redefined the relationship between celebrities and photography. Galella was ready to take risks to get snapshots of celebrities of the 1960s such as Jackie Kennedy, Marlon Brando or Mick Jagger. Outside official events he looks out for their cars and tries to find out where they are headed. This is the beginning of the “paparazzi style” that is going to give him some trouble in the future.
Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis (among others) files a lawsuit against him which attracts a lot of media attention. He is fascinated by her, follows her with his camera, until she is sick of it. She finally succeeds in getting a restraining order keeping Galella at a distance of at least 25 feet. The actor Marlon Brando breaks Galella’s jaw outside a New Yorker restaurant. After this incident, Galella always wears a football helmet when he returns to take photos of Brando. Richard Burton’s bodyguards beat him up before he is imprisoned in Cuernavaca (Mexico). Being an extraordinary paparazzo, as Newsweek describes him, is not always a piece of cake.
Galella’s photos were published in hundreds of magazines, among them Time, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, People, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and The New York Times. He also provided pictures for photojournalism books, for example for Disco Years, honoured as “Best Photography Book of 2006” by The New York Times.
In 2010, Smash His Camera, a documentary directed by Oscar winner Léon Gast about his life and career, opened the Sundance Film Festival. This film was also a huge success on the 54th BFI London Film Festival before it was broadcast on TV.
His work made him famous not only in the United States, but also in other parts of the world. Italy, his country of origin, made him an honorary citizen in 2009. In order to thank his ancestors, Galella realized the project Viva l’Italia!, a collection of 225 photos of Italian and Italian American celebrities ranging from Frank Sinatra to Sophia Loren.
Today Ron Galella lives with his wife Betty Galella Burke in Montville, New Jersey.
Galella is one of the most famous and controversial celebrity photographers. According to Time Magazine and Vanity Fair, he is considered the “Godfather of the U.S. paparazzi culture”. Braking the barrier between celebrities and the public, he has created a particular technique that can be called “Fast shoot!” allowing him to take intimate pictures of famous people.
His passion for the art of photography and his autodidactic approach describe Galella’s way of working. It needs a specific technical know-how to capture someone’s personality in a thousandth of a second. The prints created by Galella himself found a place in museums and galleries. His photos are exhibited all over the world, for instance in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in San Francisco, in der Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London or in the Museum für Fotografie in Berlin.
Ron Galella, Jacqueline, Sheed and Ward, 1974.
Ron Galella, Offguard: A Paparazzi Look at the Beautiful People, McGraw Hill Book Company, 1976.
Steven Bluttal (ed.), Ron Galella, The Photographs of Ron Galella 1965-1989, Greybull Press, 2003.
D. Faccioli (ed.), Ron Galella, Ron Galella Exclusive Diary, Photology, 2005.
Anthony Haden-Guest, Michael Musto, Ron Galella, Disco Years, powerHouse Books, 2006.
Peter Beard, Graydon Carter, Ron Galella et al., No Pictures, powerHouse Books, 2008.
Ron Galella, Warhol by Galella: That’s Great!, Verlhac Editions, 2008.
Ron Galella, Viva l’Italia!, Ron Galella, Ltd, 2009.
Susan Blond, Brooke Shields, Ron Galella, Man in the Mirror: Michael Jackson by Ron Galella, powerHouse Books, 2009.
Ron Galella, Léon Gast, Boxing with the Stars, Verlhac Editions, 2011.
Ron Galella, Mathias Prinz, Ron Galella: Paparazzo Extraordinaire, Hatje Cantz, 2012.