Life as a Paparazzi

Matthew Suarez is a typical college
graduate with an affinity for beautiful
women, music and leisure. Well, he's
almost typical.

Unlike most students who
either work a few part-time jobs or the
lucky ones who land a nine-to-five job after
graduation, Matt pays off his student debt
with the help of the rich and famous.

Working odd hours at the airport, outside
a certain celebrity's house or vacation spot,
or any place for that matter, for the firm
Bauer & Griffin, Suarez is commonly
called paparazzi. Many people have made
paparazzi out to be villainous and wrong.

"I've heard a pap[arazzi] in Beverly
Hills respond to the hisses of onlookers
with, 'What, I'm a college graduate and
I'm paying my bills, what more do you
want from me?' And yeah, it's better than
waiting tables," Matt said.

In fact, he also said, "If I didn't have
student loans to pay off, I'd be using my
music major to play guitar full-time."

Whether one sees celebrities as victims
of media or shrewd business people who
market on their celebrity, Karl Larsen,
a well-known paparazzi among his
competition, said it best in an exclusive
interview with the SMC Corsair "They need us
as much as we need them."

When determining who the real villain is
in this scenario, if there were to be one, it is pertinent to understand who purchases the magazines that display the pictures.

Many have heard the old adage, "Bad
press is still good press," and if anyone
remembers Britney Spears or Paris Hilton,
they would indeed remember that in their
darkest hours, they received the most press
coverage and magazines with their pictures
on the cover flew off the shelves.

"I think my job is great, but the only
thing I regret is the fact that my profession
helps keep people ignorant. People who
read gossip magazines always compare
themselves to what celebs wear and how
they act, but I could care less about that,"
Suarez said as NPR played in his company issued 2008 GTI Volkswagen.

Once on-site at the airport beginning a
three-day tryst on Friday afternoon with
Suarez, he made sure to introduce the
competition he was friendly with. There
was a very international crowd of about
10 paparazzi from England, Argentina,
Mexico and the United States.

Most were working in pairs on chirping
cell-phones, some alone, all constantly
shifting locations trying to figure out where
the celebrity, in this case, Sienna Miller,
would arrive. When asked if they would be
willing to perform an interview, ironically
enough, most did not wish to receive media
attention and specifically asked not to be
filmed or for their names to be included
in this article as they hid behind corners
with hooded sweatshirts and sunglasses
covering their heads.

Excuses ranged from, "I don't want to be
recognized by celebrities," to, "I'm camera
shy," or even a plain, "I don't like to be on
film." They all seemed uncomfortable
with the fact that their life could easily
be highlighted as any other celebrity, but
warmed up on the following two days.

In fact on day three, a TMZ (Ten Mile
Zone, a popular celebrity-frenzied media
program) videographer claimed that people
constantly recognize him from the show.

Larsen, one of the few who would allow
his name to be used, wouldn't interview
until after he captured his celebrity saying,
"a baseball player wouldn't do an interview
until after a game and I'm the same way."
Today he was waiting for Sienna Miller.

The airport passengers aren't the only
group of people recognizing the paparazzi
here at LAX. Security workers, agents and
police all recognize the photographers and
come up multiple times asking questions
like, "Who's here?" And all the paparazzi
agree that it is sometimes annoying when
trying to focus for a job.

When waiting for Audrina Patridge's
luggage to arrive on the console, the
collective group was approached at least
four times and this was just 15 minutes of
waiting. There were also a few "D-list"
celebrities who were described by Suarez
as being "hungry for lost fame."

Rules dictate any game played, and
this game-like cat and mouse chase
between celebrity and paparazzi is no
different. Although some gossip magazines
and others make these photo-happy
entrepreneurs out to be villains who prey
on the privacy of public figures, there is
another side to the story.

A certain honor code amongst paparazzi
enforces fairness in the "game." "Jumping"
as Suarez referred to it, would be one
paparazzi following another to obtain the
same shot he or she has, and is heavily
frowned upon.

Although they congregate together in the same terminal at LAX airport waiting for assumedly the same celebrity, most of these professionals keep the names of those they hope to shoot secretive unless the competition is a known ally.

Not one paparazzi will cease shooting
until the celebrity has either left the
premises or the competition has gone
elsewhere. "You don't want to miss a
shot. I mean, what if I were to leave and
my competition gets a shot of the celebrity
tripping or doing something else that I
didn't get? I wouldn't make any money
on my shot because their shot would be
worth more," Suarez said.

Indeed, some shots are worth more than
others. "I'm getting Audrina Patridge, but
she was just seen in a bikini so I know my
shots won't sell for much," Suarez said.

Suarez allowed the Corsair to view his
sales sheet, but refused to permit actual
numbers with names to be released out of
fear of punishment from his firm.

The numbers showed earnings anywhere
from $8.90 to $420 a picture, or at least that was his cut. The most valuable picture of his on the sheet before the firm took out a profitable percentage was around $2,300
for one picture.

"That picture would have been worth
more money, like about $8,000 to $10,000,
but the locals (they were spotting celebrities in Cancun, Mexico) had better access for a clearer shot because they were let in by friends who worked in the hotel [the celebrities] were staying at," he said.

At $420 a picture, it is understandable
why Suarez would want to put off his
dreams of full-time guitar playing for the
easy money now. His student loan debt is
something many students at SMC will face,
and Suarez's solution to paying off his debt
might be something to consider.