[pah-puh-raht-soh; It. pah-pah-raht-tsaw]

Paparazzi is a plural term (paparazzo being the singular form) for photographers who take unstaged and/or candid photographs of celebrities. The settings vary widely for these photograph, any location from the red carpet to a private backyard is considered fair game.


The word paparazzi was introduced by the 1960 film La dolce vita directed by Federico Fellini. One of the characters in the film is a news photographer named Paparazzo (played by Walter Santesso). In his book Word and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson writes that Fellini took the name from an Italian dialect that describes a particularly annoying noise, that of a buzzing mosquito. In his school days, Fellini remembered a boy who was nicknamed "Paparazzo" (Mosquito), because of his fast talking and constant movements, a name Fellini later applied to the fictional character in La dolce vita. This version of the word's origin has been strongly contested. For example, in an interview with Fellini's screenwriter Ennio Flaiano, he said the name came from a southern Italy travel narrative by Victorian writer George Gissing, "By the Ionian Sea." The book, published in 1901, gives the name of a hotel proprietor, Signor Paparazzo. He further states that either Fellini or Flaiano opened the book at random, saw the name, and decided to use it for the photographer. This story is documented by a variety of Gissing scholars and in the book "A Sweet and Glorious Land: Revisiting the Ionian Sea" (St. Martin's Press, 2000) by John Keahey.


Due to the reputation of paparazzi as a nuisance, some states and countries (particularly within Europe) restrict their activities by passing laws and curfews, and by staging events in which paparazzi are specifically allowed to take photographs. In Germany and France, photographers need the permission of the people in their photographs in order for them to be released (see model release).

The presence of paparazzi is not always seen as vexatious; the arranger of an event may, in order to make the guests feel important, hire a number of actors who pretend they are paparazzi (so-called faux-paparazzi).

Paparazzi usually sell their work to dozens of magazines and newspapers that publish such photos for their readers and subscribers, and hence many paparazzi feel that they are helping celebrities and public figures in general by increasing their visibility. Still, these photographers often earn large sums for a particularly good, or revealing picture.

Paparazzi are not breaking any laws in the U.S. when they take a photo of a celebrity, unless the photographer was on private property.

Paparazzi in the news

A inquest jury investigating the paparazzi involvement in the deaths of Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed, who were killed in 1997 in a high-speed car accident in Paris, France, while being pursued by paparazzi. Although several paparazzi were briefly taken into custody, no one was ever convicted. The official inquests into the accident attributed the causes to the speed and manner of driving of the Mercedes, and to the speed and manner of driving of the following vehicles as well as to the impairment of the judgement of the Mercedes driver through alcohol. In 1999, the Oriental Daily News of Hong Kong was found guilty of "scandalizing the court", an extremely rare criminal charge that the newspaper's conduct would undermine confidence in the administration of justice. The charge was brought after the newspaper had published abusive articles challenging the judiciary's integrity and accusing it of bias in a lawsuit the paper had instigated over a photo of a pregnant Faye Wong. The paper had also arranged for a "puppy team" to track a judge for 72 hours, to provide the judge with first-hand experience with what paparazzi do.

Time magazine's Style & Design special issue in 2005 ran a story entitled "Shooting Star", in which Mel Bouzad, one of the top paparazzi in Los Angeles at the time, claimed to have made US$150,000 for a picture of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Georgia after their breakup. "If I get a picture of Britney and her baby," Bouzad claimed, "I'll be able to buy a house in those hills (above Sunset Boulevard)." Paparazzi author Peter Howe told Time that "celebrities need a higher level of exposure than the rest of us so it is a two-way street. The celebrities manipulate."

On 2006, Daniela Cicarelli went through a scandal when a paparazzo caught video footage of her having sex with her boyfriend on a beach in Spain, which was posted on YouTube. After fighting in the court, it was decided in her favor, causing YouTube to be blocked in Brazil. This caused major havoc among brazilians, including threatening to make a boycott against MTV unless Daniela was fired from the company. Ultimately, the block lasted merely a few days, but Daniela did not get fired. However, the legal action backfired as the court decided she had no expectation of privacy by having sex in a public location.

The E! network program Celebrities Uncensored used often-confrontational footage of celebrities made by paparazzi.


Stalkerazzi is a portmanteau of stalker and "paparazzi" and as the name implies signifies those whose techniques tend toward invading personal space and privacy. The term has gained usage in reference to popular culture figures like celebrities and people made famous through media and news events. In particular throughout 2007, Britney Spears had a notable increase in the number of people following her every move in hopes of getting photos and videos. Tabloid shows such as Access Hollywood, TMZ on TV and print media such as People have facilitated such activities but arguably only to meet consumer demand.

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