Celebrity Obsessions: The History of Paparazzi

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January marks the kickoff of the chaotic whirlwind that is Hollywood’s awards season. After the Golden Globes, which air January 6, it’ll be a back-to-back gauntlet for the industry’s elite. The most in-demand actors, directors, and writers will spend the next 40+ days strutting down the red carpets of the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, and many more more. It all culminates in February with the ultimate prize, the Academy Awards. And so, with celebrity on the brain this month, this post seems especially fitting.

A new exhibition at Italy’s Gallerie d’Italia in Vicenza showcases the nefarious origins of celebrity fever. The show is called Paparazzi: Photographers and Stars from the Dolce Vita to Today. Not simply photographs of the It Girls and It Boys of the era, the exhibition shines a light on a decades-old obsession with celebrity—and what that obsession says about us as a culture. The show tells the history of the paparazzi, which was reportedly formed in the 1950s by a group of so-called “assault photographers.” Their subjects? The Richard Burton, Liz Taylor, and Ava Gardner types. Those giants of cinema and scandal.

While you might not be making the 14-hour flight to Vicenza for the Paparazzi exhibition itself, those in Los Angeles during the next two months will likely see a celebrity or two while you’re in town. But, please, no cameras.

Anita Ekberg fuori dalla sua villa a ronta i fotografi con arco e frecce Roma, 1960. Marcello Geppetti © MGMC/dolceVita GALLERY.

Fotografi alla stazione Termini assaltano l’auto di Soraya. Courtesy of Agenzia Dufoto.

Audrey Hepburn dal pizzicagnolo Roma, 1961. Courtesy of Marcello Geppetti.

Attesa dei Fotogra in via Sistina Roma, 1958. Courtesy of Ezio Vitale.

Brigitte Bardot esce dall’hotel Forum Roma, 1965. Vittorio La Verde © Vittorio La Verde.

Tazio Secchiaroli in appostamento Roma, 1958. Courtes of Ezio Vitale.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis e Ron Galella su Madison Avenue, New York, 1971. © Ron Galella.

Header photo: Sophia Loren, 14 November 1961. Courtesy of Agenzia Dufoto

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