Art & Photography / In Pictures

Ron Galella's New York

We examine and expose the infamous American paparazzo's bold new book

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Galella_Lennon Jagger
John Lennon and Mick JaggerPhotography by Ron Galella

Who? Dubbed the "godfather of American paparazzi", Ronald Edward Galella's prying, candid photographs revealed a rare insight into the world of celebrity culture during the 70s and 80s. Born and raised in New York, Galella moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s after serving as a US Air Force photographer during the Korean War and enrolled in the Art Centre College of Design. It was during that time that he became fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous and began crashing A-list premieres and parties to snap pictures of Hollywood stars as a hobby. By the time he graduated with a degree in Photojournalism and moved back to his native Bronx, his nocturnal photography expeditions had become a daily practice. 

While magazine editors loved him, Galella's intrusive and unforgiving style of photography became every A-lister's worst nightmare – he lost five teeth to Marlon Brando, was spat upon by Sean Penn, flipped off by Mick Jagger and even received a restraining order from his muse Jackie Kennedy – but with time and persistance, he gained acceptance and even friendship from the very subjects that he was infatuated by, enabling him to take some of the coolest, most revealing photographs of the era. Over his 50-year career, the thick-skinned paparazzo took in adundance of three million photographs, a mind-boggling amount of film that has been showcased in several exhibitions, books and even a house covered floor-to-ceiling with his prints. Now 84, Galella has put his nightcrawler days behind him, though he still graces the red carpet at prominent events such as the Met Gala, where he now photographs celebrities with their consent.

What? Though his photographs have featured in numerous books over the years, Ron Galella’s New York is the first volume that is solely dedicated to the city that provided a canvas for his most striking works. From Cher on roller skates to a topless Grace Jones being body painted by Keith Haring, a suited-up Jack Nicholson, the tome exposes the crème of the photographer’s archives, including a number of previously unpublished images. While it's evident that Galella often crossed questionable moral lines, he was able to capture real human emotion like no other paparazzo, and the book is testament to this. 

Why? Alongside a number of never-seen-before photographs, the sensational book also boasts an exclusive interview with the legendary paparazzo, revealing previously untold stories behind some of his most iconic images. 

Ron Galella's New York is published by Damiani.

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