Monday, March 9, 2009

Getty Images And Paparazzi Pictures

Getty Images has several distinct brands. However, unlike a guest at the Intercontinental who would not take offense in knowing that the same company owns Holiday Inn Express (, knowing that income that supports Getty Images comes from Paparazzi "gotcha" moments, as well as helicopters flying overhead, and a mom trying to have a normal day at the park with a crying child, among the thousands of images that Getty Images is making money from, likely wouldn't sit well with the celebrities. Thus, the recent distribution deal between Getty Images and paparazzi agency Buzzfoto should be brought to the fore for a bit of discussion.

Would Brad Pitt have been comfortable knowing that he used Getty Images for his avenue of distribution for the first photos of one of his children, when they are also profiting from this photo of him, or this photo of Angelina?

Paul Melcher quotes, in his posting "It's Crazy, indeed", Getty's Global Vice President of Entertainment, Mark Kuschner , from a July 2007 article in the industry standard Variety Magazine:

”We’re never going to get into the business of the long lens, hiding in the bushes, hunting people down. Our business is based around relationships with celebrities and publicists and publications. The way we shoot is we’re invited. Paparazzi business is getting more play, but that’s also a very cyclical business.”

Never? Never ever? Oh, how the times have changed.

(Continued after the Jump)

Kuschner is quoted here as another segment of the Melcher quote "Our business is based around relationships with celebrities and publicists and publications. " So, I ask again - what do you think the celebrities you have built those relationships with would think about you profiting from their looking their worst through a backdoor channel?

The key players at WireImage, FilmMagic, and other companies built their companies on access, and ensuring that the celebrities they photographed, looked their best. I've personally seen more than one editing session where a celebrity image going out for distribution that had the celebrity looking less than their best would get axed. This was how these companies were built, and how they leveraged the relationships into companies that were then sold, and frankly, as long as everyone knows what's going on, there's nothing wrong with it.

Except when you make public statements that you would never do something, and then you do it when you think no one is watching.

Take a minute and dissect a single events' coverage.

Consider that a publication (either in print, or online), has just a few slots for images from a particular small to medium-sized event. If there is no "inside" photographer, then all the photos that are actually available, will come from the arrivals area. However, if you have these great images from inside, pairings of celebrities, those images will be more likely to get play than an arrival image - because they're better. Thus, When a publicist hires Getty or WireImage, and pays them $5,000, (and, by the way, the photographer gets about $250, for work-for-hire), that photographer is producing images inside, yet, on the outside, or in the bushes, or sneeking in through the kitchen (a la Blast 'Em) another photographer (or many of them) are producing images that places the same celebrities at the same event not only in a bad light, but also then has those images running side-by-side in searches.

So, when a photo editor can choose the pretty inside images from the $5k photo shoot, or the "more realistic" images from Buzzfoto, where the celebrity may look less than their best, the publicist's efforts have been watered down, possibly to the point where they become ineffective, yet, in the end, Getty not only collected the $5k, but the royalties from the less than flattering images as well.

Melcher makes a similar point in his piece:
"But how do you combine being the official photographer for a premiere or party, where you are hired to shoot the event and thus play along the publicists demands that all look nice, happy, and beautiful to the needs of a marketplace that would much rather see the same group of people, drunk, sick, dirty and arrested ? Especially since you went through incredible efforts to shut out your competition from all these official events, forcing them to wait outside and thus get those unauthorized shots ?"

Getty is trying to have it both ways, and in the end, if even one celebrity with the next million-dollar exclusive they want to distribute (Pitt/Jolie, Cruise/Holmes, etc), choosing Corbis, Zuma Press, or another agency may well cost Getty far more than Getty will likely earn from the paparazzi images they said they were "never going to get into the business of."

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

John, playing devil's advocate:

How is this different from when runs a leaked photo from Rhianna's police file, and refuses to publish it? Both TMZ and People are owned by Time Warner.

We cry hypocrisy, but none of the players that matter (advertisers, audiences and celebrities) care. They see distinct brands with distinct values.

As long as I've worked at PDN, not a month has gone by without somebody contacting me to complain about Getty's celebrity deals. But all of them are people who compete with Getty for business, which is a relatively small pool of people. I've never heard from anybody without a horse in the race who cares.

Not here to defend Getty, just asking if it matters to most people.
- Daryl

John Harrington said...

Daryl -

Good question. The comparison between TMZ and People is a a fair one, to be sure, but the issue at hand is that a publicist is paying Getty/WireImage $5k (or more) for "positive coverage, best pictures", and to get those images from that event front-and-center before the eyes of photo editors. That limited "front-and-center" space gets crowded with the less-than-positive images from the same event, and thus, publicists who may not be aware of these back-end relationships should think twice before coughing up $5k+.

Take Tom Cruise, for example. He was refusing to promote MI:3, owned by Paramount, because of the Viacom owned South Park skewering of his religious beliefs. And, for a spell, it worked.

For bigger dollar deals, for example, the NBA - the brawl between the Pistons and the Pacers - go to Getty Images and try to find the same quality of coverage that someone without financial ties to Getty has. The wires have full coverage, Getty has next to nothing of it. Ditto on-ice brawls because of the NHL deal. For the NBA and NHL, they are watching much closer than the celebrities are - which is, in part, the question: If Brad Pitt knew that Getty properties were out making money off of him looking bad, he would likely think twice before partnering with them for other things.

If I had the resources and time, I would call and poll a collection of publicists, and ask them the question:

"Do you think it's fair for Getty Images to charge you $5,000 to come and cover your event, with the promise by them to you that you would get to approve the images that go out, or that the only images that would go out would be flattering ones, and all the while they are using some of that money to afford photographers to catch your same event with unflattering images of the guests that you have no control over?"

I suspect that this would be alarming to many publicists. While they may not feel like they have any choice, in the end, they may at-least be better informed about the company they are doing business with.

Anonymous said...

Clearly the lines have been crossed with Getty in distributing Buzz Foto's images via Film Magic ( the dying third part of the Media Vast deal) and I am glad both you and Melcher have called out a Getty Exec on this.

You brought up an excellent point about editorial integrity when it comes to the NBA and leagues. It's no different when Getty Vast gets hired for a high end event and then leaks it to Buzz to make sure "all" angles are covered and sending one of their guys to pap it outside. Obviously SCOOPT was a major flop so they had to make a deal like this.

Daryl, you're right about the fact that consumers, readers and advertisers could give a crap about where and who the images came from but you're not only in the business of the general consumer your magazine is about our industry, where it stands and who is doing what to cheat the rules of the game. While I don't think you or John are experts on the entertainment photo business at all you understand the business of it and am glad John that you are reporting about it. Daryl, PDN has been caught as a pawn for Getty to use to get the message out while trying to maintain its credibility and standing in our community. I don't think the magazine has ever done a serious story about the effects Getty has had on the entertainment photo agency business. You should but I don't think you or your staff care about it to ask the hard questions and do a seriour investigative story on it. Putting the ridiculousness aside about what this market can be at times, it is a business and people's lives have been effected by what Getty Vast has done to squeeze every living ounce of competition out of this market. If you dig further, you migth be surprised about what they do, who they pay ,etc to secure such lucrative deals.

It is up to each agency though to call Getty Vast out on what they do , how it operates because Publicists do care and want to make sure their getting outlets to come to their events.

Keep up the great reporting John, God knows we need to keep things fair and balanced.

Anonymous said...

The greatest thing that could happen here would be for an out of control bus to run over all the Paparazzi at a Jonas Brothers event.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised, ethics and money often don't go together. During this years we (photographer) have seen too many mistakes and changes in our business. Sometimes I think that I'm too old fot this work :-)

Anonymous said...

Check out the guy in the camo talking into his collar in the Katie Holmes image. I think stalking should be defended against by tasering the slime balls. Though a bus running them over Along with the Jonas brothers would be a good start. Truly the pathogens of our industry.

Anonymous said...

I'm a paparazzo, and reading some these comments just make me laugh. You criticize Getty for making such a deal and how it jeopardizes your relationship with celebrities, agents, etc. And yet on the same breathe you also criticize photographers who don't adhere to rules of photojournalism by creating posed photos or editing an image to be more artistically pleasing.

I speak for myself, but I neither spend time trying to kiss anyone's posterior, nor do I try to alter my photographs to be more visually pleasing. I try to look for a story that tells the absolute truth, be it gritty or happy as long as it is real.

I have no doubt of my role in the Hollywood machine and how some may view our methods. I know it's can be disgusting at times, but I do my job and try to get home in one piece. I'm not wishing death or some evil demise on others. But to put blame on the paparazzi for raining on your parade is childish. At least I don't hide behind the so-called rules of photojournalism only when it benefits me.

At least my conscious is clear knowing I photographed the real story and not some manipulated piece of tripe blended into the realm of fantasy and journalism. And just to add, I'm personally not happy with this Getty deal either.

Anonymous said...

Paparazzo, Italian for Mosquito, what a surprise. I thought it actually meant "photographic reach around".

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous:

I have been photographing Celebrity Events now since 2000. With all due respect It really isn't a laughing matter nor is it a question of following the rules of photojournalists.

It's about integrity.

Over the years and tens of thousands of images I've shot at daytime and evening events, galas and the like I have hand many, many images that either through optical illusion or real actions would show some of these individuals in a less than glamourous light.

These are Hall of Fame folks that have to earn a living too. They are not anymore perfect than we are.

They pick their nose, scratch their butts, adjust their underware have words with folks and so on and sometimes the timing for this isn't the best.

Do these images help tell the story of the event or are they insignificant side bars to the Charity tht they are helping in these events.

You say you don't alter any photographs so you do have integrity and please help me understand the grittyness of celebrity events?

I watched a TMZ segment where Celebrity Nose Picking was the feature.

I couldn't have been more appauled.

These photographers had images of these folks and the unpleasantries shot at locations where these celebrities were obviously trying to seclude themselves but were followed and photographed.

One of those celebrities was Brook Shields. How much ruder could someone be as a photographer to commit this type of imaging. Then to add insult to injury, sell them.

You talk about the Hollywood Machine and doing you job and getting home in one piece. You even talk about it in terms of being disgusting.

imho, It all comes down to the integrity of the photographer.

Sure, Getty can be called out hard for it's practices and how damaging it has been for the industry but doesn't it all begin with the photographer and his or her own individual ethical choices.

I would love to send in a collection of unseamly images and totally cash in on the base pandering to the general public but I can't.

I can't even keep them any longer than the second or so it takes to delete them. That,s just me and don't expect you to do any different than your ethics dictate.

I really think photographers, as a group, have to stop thinking in terms of I must do this to put food on my table and start developing a stronger more ethical character.

It is however an "American Way" to screw whoever you can for as much money as you can. Stoop as low as you can as long as you can have all the material trapping that you need to call your self successful.

Sure it's Getty, but don't all the local pushers supply this trade.

I may not be the most successful photographer in the world but I am exactly what I want to be in this industry.

Anonymous said...

To be sure: PDN has published more critical coverage of Getty Images over the last 14 years than anybody else. But yeah, we could stand to devote more coverage to celebrity photography, particularly since there's so much money in it. The celebrity business has changed a lot since the Getty-WireImage merger and we're probably due for an update.

Anonymous said...

Lastly my "fellow photographers", in the military, if a superior gives you an illegal order, you are not obligated to carry out that order.

In a similar vain, if an editor is pushing you to do something that doesn't sit quite well with you, don't do it. It all begins and ends with YOU.

If you're staring through the viewfinder of your long lens at a nude Jennifer Anniston in her backyard, you've gone too far. Any reasonable person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own home.

Likewise, oh great photo editor's, start developing some form of ethical character yourselves. If a photographer sends you that image, spend sometime teaching about basic right and wrong in society, then DELETE that image and ask the photographer to do the same.

The same applies to contracts that are bad for the industry. You have to start saying no. Stop sellingout coworkers. Stop caving in. Show some backbone.

You would think someone would develope a code of ethics that all could agree on but as Seinfeld so nicely put it to his dry cleaner "you need a code to tell you not to wear someone elses clothes."

Anonymous said...

I don't have a horse in the race & I DO care.

After Princess Diana was chased to her death by the paparrazi, I asked myself, 'what is MY part in all this?' And the answer was, I sometimes bought magazines that ran those hunted celebrity photos. So I stopped and have not bought another one since.

Aside from that, I love good photography and paparazzi photos are nothing but garbage shot by people with no talent.

One morning last week I was walking in Greenwich Village, and I turned the corner and saw a scrum of these lowlifes practically tripping all over each other yelling stuff like, 'here she comes', 'she crossed the street', 'over here'. I tried to figure out who they were after, and as I got farther up the street suddenly I see, about a block away, Sarah Jessica Parker, obviously walking her son to school. As they got closer I could see that they were having a very animated conversation, just enjoying each other's company, and it broke my heart that they could not share this little moment without being set upon by those parasites.

Paparazzi are scum, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

When will you people realize there is no integrity in this industry, it's all about brand and the more power that it has the more contradictions and hypocrisies become commonplace and nurtured. As backwards as it sounds, they can get away with it. It's the smaller agencies picking up the slack for the distorted perceptions. These celebrities and their publicists aren't stupid. They are well aware of the "backdoor" deals that come as a necessary evil with the territory of a TMZ undercover, a Getty agreement or a People deal (btw @ Daryl - that Rihanna leak ran on TMZ because it picked up more $ than People mag can generate - it's the same company, nothing to lose and more to gain by singularizing the outlet as sole exclusive. )

It's the association with their brand that counts more than anything. Everyone else? are the "bottom feeders". I'm not condoning the actions of the soul-less tyrany gripping the industry, I wish nothing more to see them buckle and fall like rocks. I don't know how any one who shoots for them can be happy making 20 cents per image (yes, you're getting robbed and loving it). You're just happy you're shooting for the "in" crowd. I tell you, it will only get you a value meal at Wendy's in the end and a stab in the back.

- A photographer happily working for an independent source with better income.

MarcWPhoto said...

Has anybody tried contracting with Getty to say, "I'll give you rights to X event, but in return, neither you *nor any affiliate* will license unreleased pictures of me for five years?"

Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Shot the Witch Mountain red carpet last night and was thinking about these's really messed up and PDN should write a story about this...

Here you have 2 Wire Image photographers ( 1 hired , 1 on the Variety Credential) have 1 Getty guy ( on The Hollywood Reporter Credential) .so that makes 3 photographers from same company on the carpet..then you have about 2-3 photographers behind the line ( Getty, Film, Wire)...WTF!!!

Somebody PULEAAZE blow the cover on the biggest monopoly this industry has seen..and you have pathetic Reuters and AP trying to inch their way in there...

red carpet is SCREWED!!!

Anonymous said...

Go to any major airport and you'll see Getty photographers waiting to paparrazi celebrities. The same ones that do these exclusive access events. They chase cars in LA, doorstep in NYC and troll the beaches of Hawaii and Miami. Then they use assumed names to safeguard their event gigs.

For better or worse, that is the truth.

Anonymous said...

As Photographers and Photo Agencies, we have to adapt to the times. I shoot for FilmMagic. My advantage is that the Getty Company has good distribution. Beautiful images without good distribution amounts to nothing.

I know Getty has managed to take a good share of the market. So be it. They are in survival mode. If you don't like what they are doing, then try to come up with something different and exciting to offer. Or, lay down and play dead. I prefer to continue shooting as many events as I can so I can earn a good living, which I do with Getty. Its not about prestige, its about survival. I don't hide in the bushes. I shoot red carpet and do a decent job. My royalty check each month speaks for its self.

Anonymous said...

Some of you are missing the point. Re-read the original article here, and you will understand that Getty is having an identity crisis. NO ONE is judging whether paparazzi-ing is good or bad. Not the point here at all. Getty/Wireimage set itself up to be the "Publicist-friendly" agency and built its empire on that.

What I know, though, as a former contributor, is that when their exclusives were assigned, another 'photographer' was informed so as to doorstep the talent in & out. Not too ethical. This was the Wireimage M.O. even prior to the merger.

Now they're simply greedy - all the exclusives and special access are not enough, and they are now just blatant about the hardcore paparazzi - the Buzzphoto brand engages in dangerous "Stalkerazzi" behavior, not simply benign activities like shooting the filming of movie sets on the street or something. I'm talking about car chases and harassing children of celebrities. The point of John's reporting is to point out the obvious hypocrisy of what Getty is selling itself as, without disclosing that they have no loyalty to the client who is paying them $5K per event - and the client definitely expects that when they are paying such a sum!

It's so funny/sad, since it was Getty who started slashing the value of photos, giving them away for next-to-nothing to the mags. The folks who used to make a good living shooting red carpet were left with not much choice except to turn into paps (or else flip burgers). Now Getty is openly flaunting their STALKERAZZIS and it's just a damn shame.

I don't fault Getty/Wire/Filmmagic photogs AT ALL - like the Filmmagic shooter said above, they do a good job for HIM and let him make a living. It's the Getty MACHINE who will, no doubt about it, get their karma in the end.

The ethically-challenged always pay in the end - from Bernie Madoff to Scooter Libby and eventually Getty will get theirs.

Anonymous said...

To the Film Magic photographer: Do you really think Getty Images is going to continue to support Film Magic contributors? And the statement you are so proud of each month I am certain has diminished each and every month you started there. If not now it will sooner because it's the company that will insure its survival by reducing rates, slashing costs and dropping photographers like yourself in a minute before it starts giving you more of its money. Your survival mentality is easy to say from the cheap seats but surely as one of its former competitors its so sad to think that you think the the party will continue as if nothing has changed. Don't you get it, ther more staffers Getty takes on, the less of a chance you will have to shoot at events. Publicists are being weened of Film Magic more than you know so good luck because you are going to be in for a let down in a few months when they stop taking your images! Also, the fact that Film Magic looks like a cleaned up Paparazzi site should tell you what direction that brand is going.

Anonymous said...
3 wireimage photographers, 2 filmmagic papping the Gossip Girl set. So that's 5 GETTY photogs in all shooting celebrities against their will.

The funniest thing? There's no event listing on the Getty entertainment homepage. Nothing touting these 'amazing' shots. However, they are hidden - just keyword search on any of the actors' names and there they are in the database. Getty just can't seem to decide if they are a PR-friendly agency or of they're just like the rest of the stalkerazzi. I say, if they are going to do street and shoot celebrities against their will, they should be upfront about it. This will eventually come back at them...

Anonymous said...

Let's say People offers Brad more money than Getty for a baby photo exclusive. Getty can keep the bid low, but sweeten the deal by offering to cooperating with the publicist on paparazzi shots. Of course People could do the same, but they are only one magazine. The goal here is not to get Getty to eliminate _all_ unflattering photos, but rather the most unflattering or incriminating photos that come in (nip-slips, innocent kisses, kid in car w/o a car seat, etc.)

Anonymous said...

The goal here is not to get Getty to eliminate _all_ unflattering photos, but rather the most unflattering or incriminating photos that come in (nip-slips, innocent kisses, kid in car w/o a car seat, etc.)

So if the photographer doesn't keep said images and deletes them, what's to negotiate?

Oh yea, I remember, gotta put food on the table. I can't wait until the come up with a reality TV show that has photographers following, chasing and sneek shooting PHOTOGRAPHERS! Oh man! Now I'm watching TV every night!

Steve Mack said...

As a Getty Images photographer, I am assigned to FilmMagic. However, I shoot for Film, Wire and Getty when the editors assign me to do so. I'm freelance and can shoot for other agencies as well. I shoot for Getty mostly, because I get better distribution. I also hear from PR firms that they go to Wire and Getty first when they look for photos.

Newer Post Older Post