What It's Like Working as a Paparazzo in Cannes
"Cannes isn't about the movies. It's about branding, about banks, fashion, jewelry, drinks... It's one big brothel. Actors, they're all whores."
In the midst of the celebrity frenzy that is Cannes, the city's luxe hotels attract almost as many paparazzi as the red carpet. Today, as I write this, photographers and fans are swarming around the entrance of the Grand Hyatt Hotel Martinez, all cloying to get a shot of Kim Kardashian.
The celebrity-stalking press first got their name back in 1960. This was when Federico Fellini's 1960 classic La Dolce Vita featured a photographer named Paparazzo, whose name roughly describes the annoying buzz of a mosquito. Today paparazzi are still seen as morally depraved pests, who will do anything for the money shot.
It seems few jobs could be as soul-destroying as hanging outside celebrity haunts, hoping to photograph stars doing something vulnerable in order to make a few bucks. So this year at Cannes, I hung out with paparazzi as they waited for Kim to make her exit, trying to understand why they do what they do, and how they view their industry.
Maxine Raffled, Paris
This is my eleventh Cannes film festival. Do I like it? It's like the Olympic games. A lot of people from different countries all competing for the same subjects. "Subjects," that's what we call the actors.
I don't know if there's any ultimate person nowadays, but maybe Kim Kardashian. She's meant to be coming. She's being followed right now. How much you get paid is less about how famous the person is and more about what's happening with that person. You can have a minor famous person who's crazy.
There's actually nothing going on at Cannes by the moment; the actors are totally run by the industry. The freedom they have is very limited... Cannes isn't about the movies. It's about branding, about banks, fashion, jewelry, drinks, all that stuff. It's one big brothel. A lot of whores and pimps. Actors, they're all whores.
It's not about disrespecting or respecting celebrities. That's what paparazzi are here for. If I were them, I'd have a lot of fun. They don't know how to enjoy the fun. If you can use the press, do it. Kim's the best. She's absolutely manipulating us.
Casey Kennelly, London
It gets a bit long and tiring, especially festivals like this because you're working nineteen-hour days. You'll get up seven in the morning, and you'll get here about eight. You won't get home some days until early morning. It's rough. This is my fifth year in Cannes. I've been doing this job for six years.
Sometimes I feel bad, depending on who the celebrity is. If it's a UK celebrity that I speak to and I get on with, and I take a picture that doesn't paint him or her in a good light, yeah, I feel bad. Sometimes, if I know the person well enough, I won't do the picture. But that's what paparazzi are all about, getting pictures that someone doesn't want taken.
It's all about the information—you have to know where to go, who's coming, and where. I don't think there are many people I haven't seen now. Once Victoria Beckham came out of a big party, and she wet herself. I suppose that was one of the worst. But I didn't feel sorry for her. She's horrible to us.
Laurene Favier, Paris
I've been doing this for eight years. In Paris, there are like two other women paparazzi. Sometimes it's hard being in a male environment all the time, but sometimes it's cool. They take care of me and treat me better than the other guys, and it's easier for me to get inside because nobody thinks I'm paparazzi, and I can put my camera in my bag. I can get into places, I use my charm, and I'm always smiling.
We have to know all the stars. Every day we check the websites and magazines, so when we see the same girl every day, we might not know who she is, but we recognize her. We get information from the guys who work at the hotel, or their drivers. It's a lot of work. That's the route of the paparazzi: We have to get information, and that's the most difficult part. Taking pictures is the easy part, and the actors who are not so famous are usually nice.
I love the work. I started ten years ago as a fan. I like to see celebrities. After two years, people started to say to me, "You know you can make money with that." I work but it's a pleasure, every day is different.
The best picture I ever took was of Madonna when she came back from a show and broke her ankle. I was the only woman there. It was like 2 AM, and I took the picture... It was the most expensive picture I ever sold, around €10,000 [$11,200].
Jon Beretta, London
I've been doing this for twelve years. Yeah, I still like it. It's different every day. To be honest, it's a bit of adrenaline when you get pictures.
I think people strive to have money and do interesting things with their lives and see the world. If you're a celebrity, you get to do that. I know they don't get privacy, but they get to go all over the world, stay in the nicest hotels, get to do things away from people. I think that's what the obsession is, the glitz and glamour.
If people are with their kids and stuff or they want a bit of privacy, yeah, I feel bad. But sometimes they phone you. They tell you what they're doing—"Come take my picture!"—and then they want to switch it off. They don't want to know you anymore.
The craziest thing I've done recently was when Kim got married. I went to Paris to work her pre-marriage thing. She was going to the Versace castle for dinner, and there were like five or six Range Rovers with Kim and Kanye. We were following them through the streets of Paris; they just blocked all the traffic and went through red lights straight through the Arc de Triomphe... It was crazy.
I've done celebrity funerals in the past, and I don't do them anymore. I don't like doing them. I think they're a private event, even if press get invited. If that was me and my family were grieving... Other people would do it, though. They see it as a job. This is what we do. You get people that make loads of money, but they've got no life.
I hate having photos taken of myself. Hate it.
Follow Livia Albeck-Ripka on Twitter.