Category Archives: Project

Reading – G.R.A.M. Paparazzi

GRAM Paparazzi Cover


G.R.A.M. Paparazzi is a catalogue book containing paparazzi style images of celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

Picking up the book and flipping through the pages is an interesting experience, not least because it’s unusual to encounter these paparazzi style images in such a format. The intimacy and formality of the book lends a different dimension to these images, which are more typically  encountered in the pages of the tabloid press in magazines, newspapers or trashy websites.

It is never clear in the book if the creators actually shot these images, or they were taken from other sources. This in combination of displaying images of the famous and non-famous alike in a non-hierarchal manner creates a flat and democratic pictorial landscape that doesn’t differentiate between the subjects.

The book is also interspersed with short essays about celebrity culture and the distribution of popular images.

Overall, I think G.R.A.M. Paparazzi serves as an interesting reference in how the presentation medium can recontextualise images we encounter. Moving forward, it maybe be useful to consider extending the project by presenting the images in different mediums.

Reading – Class Struggle: The Invention of Paparazzi Photography and the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales

Scan of the first page to the essay “Class Struggle: The Invention of Paparazzi Photography and the Death of Diana, Princess of Wales”

I was trying to research more into paparazzi photography when I came across “Overexposed”, a collection of essays edited by Carol Squiers. In it, was one of particular interest, an essay that discusses how paparazzi photography (and the larger media machine) played a role in creation and ultimately destruction of Princess Diana – both the princess and the Princess.

The essay starts off by discussing the origins of paparazzi photography. How it has its roots in post-war Italy, which became a melting pot of traditional Italian values and liberal American ideology. While some were desperately tried to fend off American hegemony, there was really little there could be done to prevent the liberal (relatively) lifestyles of the Hollywood jetset like Elizabeth Taylor from being splashed all over the papers. This was not something happening from afar across the Atlantic Ocean, this was happening in their very own backyard, and this posed a direct alternative to the traditional Italian idea of femininity.

The writing also discusses briefly the differences between photojournalism, documentary photography, celebrity editorial and promotional photography, surveillance photography, and paparazzi photography. Noting that paparazzi photography differ from the other forms of photographic documentation in its subject matter, approach and technical standards.

“…be watchful so as to catch the spilling cleavage, the ungainly yawn, the drunken pratfall or ill-advised strut. But the paparazzi’s provocations, which made celebrities lash out, get angry, flee from or chase the photographers, produced exaggerated reactions that created celebrities as comic visions…” (pg 288)

The essay then goes on to consider the politics and agenda setting mechanisms of the media. It proposes a direct conflict between media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the British monarchy, with the former using his media outlets such as The Sun, to deconstruct and destabilise the royal family. Subsequently, the piece goes on to discuss how the media formed the public’s idea of the Princess; how each stakeholder (the Queen, the public, media outlets, the Princess herself) in the building up the idea of the Princess had their own agenda, using the media as a means to manipulate and craft that image.

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Having completed the reading, I find the essay pertinent in providing insight on the early roots of paparazzi photography, while weaving in the socio-political landscape that it was borne in on. The proposed distinctions of paparazzi photography that differentiates it from other forms of “more esteemed” modes of documentation photography is also one that I’ll consider while solidifying the project’s framework.

While the latter parts are of much less direct relevance to my project, it is nonetheless interesting to note the power structures and struggle that existed in the tug of war over the image of Princess Diana. The agenda setting and status conferral powers of the media is also something of interest.

Local Context for Paparazzi style Photography

In the local context, there is no prominent paparazzi scene (and in fact some celebrities in the region for example, Hong Kong celebrities actually enjoy coming to Singapore for this reason). Hence it would be interesting to see how subjects would react when faced with a paparazzi swarm.

One of the closest example I can think of that can approximate the paparazzi encounter is the the mass of media representatives who swarm around prosecutors and defendants outside the compounds of a court during prominent court hearings.

For example, in the pictures of the ongoing City Harvest church trial (sample pictures below), we can see a group of photographers (and videographers) trying to surround the defendants to record stills, or moving image footage, of them. It is typically a quick and chaotic encounter as all involved joust for space, and with the defendants usually moving quickly into a nearby parked vehicle to be whisked away from the media.

CHC Swarm 01


CHC Swarm 02



The Offence Of Photography

This article made rounds amongst the local community on the Internet awhile back and I think it is a poignant reminder of the potent psychological and physiological impact the camera can have on us.

In this case, the sheer number of people doing the image capture, the underlying sexual undertones of the act of image capture, and the male gaze upon the female body as an object of desire, all come together to create a situation that led to the subjects feeling distressed.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 16.22.20

In some ways, the swarm aspect of this incident relates to what I hope to create as well with my paparazzi swarm – the mass unibody group operating as a image making collective engaging upon an individual or a smaller group of people.

It is also interesting to note that in this particular incident the photographs were made on cellphone cameras – a device that is considerably much smaller than a full sized dedicated camera, and one that is typically associated with a more stealthy style of shooting. Yet in this case, the device is used in a very obvious manner. Perhaps the size of the camera may not matter as much in certain contexts? Or does the potential internet connectivity on these phones create a greater sense of discomfort since it is knowingly possible that the phone can capture, transmit, broadcast or transfer the digital image in a matter of seconds.

Lastly, it should also be observed that the subjects themselves eventually took to making images of these men as a way to cope with the situation. Perhaps as pictorial evidence of these aggressors and/or a way to simulate and reflect back the “pictorial assault” to them.

You can read more about the incident below:

Paparazzi Test Shoot

On 24 March 2014, a friend and I conducted some preliminary tests on the paparazzi idea. Though it is a much scaled down version than the actual idea, it gave some interesting results.

The following is a selection of some of the results:



#1 – Unknown couple
Expectedly they grew wary of the presence of the cameras and flash and began speeding up their walk to get away from us



#2 – Unknown lady
The lady seemed curious about what we were doing but ultimately did little than to look up from her phone to look at us



#3 – Unknown male student
Again similar to #2, but this male student was evidently more apprehensive about what we were doing



#4 – Two unknown male students

This two male students remained largely indifferent to the cameras and our picture making antics.



#5 – Unknown male student

This male student was evidently curious and apprehensive about having this photo taken but ultimately did little to enquire or approach the photographers.



#6 – Unknown female student

We decided to test a different approach, instead of trying to catch people in transit, we wanted to catch people while they were doing something. Here we photographed a female student working away in an open study area. She became aware of our presence and picture taking actions after a few shots. Interesting, she decided to shy away from the camera instead of confronting the photographers.

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Interestingly though my friend and I photographed dozen of people in an obvious manner, only 3 of our subjects sought clarification about what we were doing. This deviates from my initial expectation that people would be more shy or aggressive towards having their image taken.

An addition passerby (an unknown adult male) who saw what was happening did approach us to enquire what we were going to use the images for. Though he dispensed his recommendation that we should actively inform the subjects of our project, he too was surprised at the low number of people who actively objected or enquired about what we were doing.

There are various possible reasons why this dominant behaviour could have occurred. The safety of the school environment could possibly account for this. The subjects may have assumed we were part of the campus student reportage team.

It may also be possible that the younger generation is much more comfortable in the presence of the camera or having their images taken by others. Hence, they objected less actively to our actions.

On the end of the photographers, it was evident that both my friend and I were initially apprehensive about the possible reactions we might receive for attempting to directly photograph our subjects. In the end, we were both surprised that so few actively approached us after their photo was taken.

Overall, it was an interesting experiment. The results herein will serve as a useful point of reference for the actual shoot.

Screenshot Experiments

Just completed a bunch of quick image quality degradation  experiments using various techniques following last week’s consultation with Randall – some working much better than others.

Results as follows:

#1 – Window screenshots

Didn’t quite give me the image degradation but produced an interesting  stacking effect nevertheless.




#2 – Manual screenshots

I tried the same idea again but this time using manual screenshots (not screen grabbing the entire window). Almost negligible difference in image quality.




#3 – Save For Web at ‘Low’ settings

This method gave me very similar results to method #3. There was some loss of image quality when observed unclose but it was not at a level I was hoping to produce. Could possibly work if I saved it numerous times over (100-200 times perhaps?)




#4 – Resizing

This method produced the most dramatic of results. I resized the image to a small pixel dimension of 49px and enlarged it subsequently to 1965px. Mostly my preferred method amongst the four attempted. I can control the rate of the degradation by altering the range I reduce and enlarge the image.