How the paparazzi were created out of the postwar Italian film industry
All of us, no matter who we are, have an opinion on the paparazzi. Many photographers believe that they’re the lowest form of life that wields a camera. Celebrities also usually aren’t great fans of them, either – particularly after the events that allegedly led up to this incident in 1997. But they’re here to stay and it’s unlikely they’re going to disappear any time soon. But how did they begin to exist in the first place?
This video from Nerdwriter takes a look at the history of the paparazzi, all the way back to the origins of the Italian film industry. An industry that movie fan and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini attempted to create prior to World War 2 when he opened the 4.3 million square foot Cinecittà Studios in 1937. But it was the postwar era that created the paparazzi after Cinecittà went through something of a transformation.
I have to admit, I’d never really thought much about the origins of the paparazzi until I watched this. They’re one of those things that’s always just been there for many of us alive today, filling the obvious needs of sleazy tabloids and gossipmongers around the world. But it turns out that the “profession” was created entirely by accident in 1958 by a photographer named Tazio Secchiaroli.
He found himself at a “high profile party” in an Italian restaurant where an uninvited guest stripped off in front of the elite crowd filled with the stars of the day. Being a photographer, he naturally proceeded to shoot what was happening. It was such a unique incident that all of the tabloids ran the story the next day – even publications like the New York Times covered it. That was when the realisation came that the general public loves drama. Especially when it relates to celebrities. And if they couldn’t find the drama, they’d create it, provoking celebrities into doing things they’d regret once caught on film.
As a result, Sechhiaroli became the inspiration for the Paparazzo character in the movie La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) in 1960. This character’s name stuck – with a slight modification – and became paparazzi – the term that everybody knows today. And as long as the general public likes revelling in the lives, drama and misery of celebrities, they’ll continue to exist.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.