Cult figure paparazzo: Once vilified and scandalized, today now rediscovered as a pop culture phenomenon. Classic paparazzi photography has been gaining popularity among collectors, the public, museums and galleries for years. Well-known faces, shots with retro flair accompanied by anecdotes and insider stories, plus the disreputable touch of the stolen picture – it all adds up to a recipe for success. In times of countless influencers, self-made stars and quickly fading C-list celebrities, we love to remember the true superstars and icons of days gone by. One of their most notorious hunters is Ron Galella. The American paparazzo managed to have them all in front of his lens – Mick Jagger, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Marlon Brando and Robert Redford, to name just a few. Galella used any means available to capture their pictures: From crazy disguises and wild chases, to waiting for days in a rat-infested warehouse across the Thames to photograph Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on their yacht and out them as a couple. There were also quite a few scuffles: Marlon Brando broke his jaw, another fight landed him, badly injured, in a Mexican prison.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the object of a full-blown obsession for him. Despite several lawsuits against Galella, she was not able to stop him from pursuing her for almost two decades and across two continents until 1981. And yet it was her, more precisely one of the photographs of her, that brought the not quite hated but at least unloved paparazzo the highest level of recognition in the art world: none other than the Museum of Modern Art in New York included a copy of Windblown Jackie – his Mona Lisa, as Galella says – in their permanent collection, among other works of his. The photograph from 1971 influenced our image of the late Jackie O. and was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential photos of the 20th century.
Today, his works are an essential part of any paparazzi exhibition. Not just because of their photographic quality and Galella's intuitive feeling for capturing the right moment, but also because of the historical significance of the pictures. Many of his photographs became iconic and have shaped our image of well-known figures in contemporary history. They are eloquent documents of a bygone era and our perception of those years. Ron Galella is a protagonist and a master of a form of photo journalism that almost no longer exists. He put his very personal mark on paparazzi photography and yes, even elevated it to an art form.