Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
By Amy Phillips Penn
“A single green light, minute and faraway,
that might have been the end of a dock.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

 

“I think that Jackie took me to court so that she could make me famous,” mused Jackie O-crazed paparazzi Ron Galella. Some of us never give up. The New York Post described Galella’s obsession with Jackie O as “the most co-dependent celeb-pap(arazzi) relationship ever.” Gotta love him.

Image courtesy of Ron Galella

Image courtesy of Ron Galella

Ron followed Jackie to photograph her, she took him to court for harassment, money exchanged hands, and limits and distances were set, but the beat went on. The American dream of a First Lady was captured in spite of protests.

“Publicity is like rain, when you’re soaking wet, what difference does a few drops more make?” Ari Onassis allegedly said to Galella, outside the courthouse.

So many of us have had a love affair with Jackie: When she was First Lady, crowds roared out in Spanish “Jackie, si, Jack, no.” She was a New York-bred beauty, whose father was too drunk to stagger down the aisle when she married a future United States President. No matter, a queen had been born.

After the nightmare — the unthinkable assassination of JFK — she became beauty and poise personified as a elegant, yet veiled, widow.

In an ode to mythology, a man with a seemingly golden lens would follow her everywhere.

Galella equates Jackie’s love of riding to the hounds to a mirror image of an inevitable chase that would pursue her anywhere: His fantasy of Artemis meets Garbo times Marilyn.“I wrote that Jackie was the most glamorous woman in the world.

What made her glamorous? Start with her face, her large wide-set eyes, then her mouth, whispering in her soft-spoken Marilyn Monroe-esque voice. Her greatest quality was mystique. She hid behind those big dark sunglasses, where she could see the outside world, without letting the outside world invade her privacy.

With Jackie O in his life and mind, and only his zoom lens and a court ordained distance between them, Galella might imagine that his out of bounds — but seemingly boundless — relationship with Jackie might dare to embrace an even slightly reciprocal flirtation between the prize and the hunter. Fantasy is its own seductive elixir.

 

“Being a reporter seems to be a ticket to the world.” – Jackie Kennedy

 

Galella is the quintessential New Yorker who doesn’t take no, with a seismic, quivering, jello-in-a loose-mold “Yes, Sir” to red-tape authority. A Bronx native, and son of an Italian immigrant, Galella clicked away as United Sates Air Force photographer in the Korean War, and then idled down to the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, with a degree in photojournalism in 1958.

“I’m a doer, a workaholic. I shoot, shoot, shoot,” says Galella. “Pictures not only speak louder than words, but for me, they have produced an extraordinary archive, with this being my twelve books. ”

Jackie didn’t have to work, yet she did with Viking and Doubleday, editing 70 books. Jackie said, “If you produce one book, you will have done something wonderful with your life.”

Ron Edward Galella (born January 10, 1931) has been pinned a “pioneer photographer.” Newsweek named him “Paparazzo Extraordinaire,” while competitor Time dueled in with “the U.S. of Paparazzi Culture.” Some say that he is “the most controversial celebrity photographer in the world.”

Image courtesy of Ron Galella

Image courtesy of Ron Galella

Controversial or not, Galella’s works have been immortalize in hundreds of publication including Time, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, People, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Life.

Image courtesy of Ron Galella

Image courtesy of Ron Galella

Galella’s New York chutzpah has been critiqued, judged, trivialized, gossiped about, but never ignored or dismissed lightly.

Jackie: My Obsession (published in 2013) followed Jacqueline (1974, Sheed & Ward) after a bold headline of law suits, countersuits, and restraining orders with precise distances between them established to the millimeter. Marlon Brando ko’d Galella to the imaginary rap background of a broken jaw and missing teeth. Galella attributed it to the alleged affair that Brando had with his obsession. “I did not photograph Jackie for the last thirteen years of her life (“I wonder if she missed me during this time?”) even at her funeral,” Galella muses.

In 1995, when John, Jr. launched George Magazine, he invited me to cover his press conference, and then gave me permission and a signed agreement to cover him at public events.

We are all curious; we wanted to know Jackie, but that can never be, because she took her mystery with her to the very end, never having written her memoirs.

“The pictures of mine in this book, spinning over twelve years of Jackie’s life, depict her in a realistic light,” says Ron.

We thank him for that.

One Response to Vintage Gossip: Ron Galella, New York Celebrity Photographer

  1. glori30175 says:

    Grande Gallela!

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