Jewish Journal

Meet Adam: Jewish paparazzi

by Ryan Torok

December 28, 2011 | 12:38 am

Adam’s paparazzi, and he’s photographed the likes of Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson and the Kardashians. He works for a small agency that buys his photographs and distributes them to publications like People magazine. I met him in Beverly Hills, where he was “roaming” – a paparazzi term for wandering from hot location to another hot location – for celebrities.

A couple hours before I met him, Nicky Hilton was photographed in the neighborhood, but Adam wasn’t around for her. He did catch her mother though, Kathy Hilton, coming out of a nail salon, and he shot some photographs of her.

I spoke with Adam (Adam isn’t his real name and he was reluctant to say where he lived) about the business of being in paparazzi, the reputation of paparazzi versus the reality and what it’s like day-to-day. Adam explained it’s not as a lucrative as it once was.

“It was big money in the middle of the 2000 decade and then it sort of simmered down a bit, maybe waiting for its next big story, like a Britney Spears melt-down kind of story or something. Maybe it’s just the economy, like everything else. But then there’s big-name agencies and shows, like Access Hollywood and TMZ that are still big consumers of it. The international market is still very strong…the British tabloids and magazines and TV shows. The average photographer works for an agency and um, submits media constantly day and night and that immediately goes around the world to whoever wants to purchase the rights to use it.

JJ: Why did you get into this field?

A: I’ve shot documentaries and TV and film for a long time and it just didn’t – especially in L.A. , it’s hard not to be interested in celebrity culture, so I added that to my repertoire of what I do. Um, about three years ago [I got into the business of paparazzi].

JJ: What’s your proudest moment as a member of the paparazzi?

A: Ah, proudest moment? It was hard to say it was a proud thing, but, um [he decides not to share it].

JJ: Least proud moment as a a member of the paparazzi?

A: I don’t have many. I, uh, follow the rules and have some morals. My hands are clean.

JJ: Does one develop his or her own moral code? Or are there are a set of rules that everyone is aware of and has to abide by? I imagine both maybe are true?

A: Well, there’s definitely CA law and most of us follow it. and some people…sometimes they don’t, and usually that has to do with traffic and people chasing celebrities and getting into accidents, which most of us have nothing to do. Most people they know to be in public places, shooting photos of public figures, that are of public interest, and that’s what we do. So sidewalks and shopping on rodeo drive, or uh, that’s pretty much public domain where celebrities are expecting to be seen and noticed and photographed and that’s what most paparazzi do.

JJ: Is there anything you are allowed to do but you choose not to because you’re not comfortable with it?

A: Um, I keep it pretty clean. I do what celebrities expect would be done when they go out. Ill shoot red carpet parties, ill shoot events, ill shoot Christmas shopping on Rodeo Drive. That’s what I do, that’s me personally. There are people who do other things I guess. But mostly there’s a law, a set of laws, there’s trespassing laws, there’s privacy laws…these days, people pretty much know what they’re supposed to do.

JJ: How old are you?

A: I’m in my forties.

JJ: What do people in your life think about your job?

A: Most think it’s really cool, especially those that are not in Los Angeles. They think it’s the most glamorous and interesting thing…people that don’t know us, some have a problem with it, some think, uh, it’s not really a job, but, then again, a lot of them might be miserable at their desk jobs, so, a little jealous of somebody that’s hanging around and talking to celebrities all day and being in magazines and on TV.

JJ: Run me through a typical day for you.

A: A typical day would be in the morning get my coffee, look for who’s also getting coffee that might be an interesting subject or story. Um, walk around Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, into shopping areas, observe who might be shopping; um, I’ll be with my family for a little while, take an early day – not leavin’ early if I were at a desk job – spend some time with family, have dinner and usually in the nighttime look for news stories around restaurants and night clubs.

JJ: How late do you usually work?

A: About 9 or 10. Some people shoot all night, but people who shoot in the day or night have to have some personal time. So I set my own schedule. I work – I set a 40-hour schedule. I spread it out and I have a lot more flexibility. It’s like any freelancer, spread it out and just be flexible.

JJ: How did you get into it?

A: I just shot a lot of things for TV and photography before. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for a long time and know what’s been going on with celebrities a lot, where things are always happening and who are interesting celebrities. I’ve always been following all of entertainment news, so I know who are the interesting stories that would make money and what wouldn’t. So it made sense being close to it all to start making money at it.

JJ: Where do you live?

A: In the 3-1-0 area code.

JJ: What are some of the most giving spots around town?

A: Um, Rodeo Drive; Robertson Blvd.; The Grove, although sometimes I don’t know if people are allowed to shoot there – I don’t go there. Um, let’s see, this is all daytime interesting things. Um, certain stores – like Fred Segal is an interesting store. Barney’s is an interesting store. And at night there’s just a lot of restaurants that are well known restaurants.

JJ: What’s something that you don’t think most people know about the paparazzi business or world that they people should know?

A: Um, that there’s a lot of really good people. Men and women, interestingly enough, that are making a good living doing something interesting and I think that that’s kind of missed sometimes when people see a whole group of people standing around, apparently picking on someone. But I think what people need to remember is that someone makes tens-of-millions of dollars of year for being famous and popular, and this is all part of what they do. And they are very well aware of it. those celebrities are very well aware and quite often work with us to get the photos done.

JJ: Favorite Jewish celebrity and have you ever photographed him or her?

A: Okay, I have no idea. Um, is Megan Fox Jewish?

JJ: Not that I know of. Natalie Portman’s Jewish.

A: Okay, so that’s my answer right there. Natalie Portman, sure.

JJ: Have you ever photographed her?

A: Nope.

JJ: How religious are you? How observant are you?

A: Reform.

JJ: Do you go to temple?

A: Yeah.

JJ: Is it against the rules to go – how do you feel about photographing Jews who are going into temple for the High Holy Days?

A: Oh I don’t do that. I don’t do churches either. Except weddings. Weddings are a monumental celebrity event. They are not the same as a religious ceremony.

JJ: What Jewish values or lessons from Torah can you apply to your job as a paparazzi member?

A: Not ‘Honor your parents.’  Let’s see. Just all around – just in general keep-you-in-check-be-a-good-person helps because it really doesn’t get you very far to cross moral or legal lines, doing anything like this. It gets you nowhere.

JJ: Do you know other Jewish paparazzi?

A: No, we’re a loosely-knit group. We don’t hang out at each other home’s everyday.

Too bad, I thought, and I left my new pal to his work.

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Ryan Torok is a staff writer and community reporter at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, where he has spent the past four years covering everything from social justice...

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