Oh Snap! 20 Landmark Paparazzi Moments – Rolling Stone
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Oh Snap! 20 Landmark Paparazzi Moments

The biggest breakups and beatdowns from the frontlines of celebrity documentation



It's been more than 50 years since Federico Fellini first thrust the term "paparazzo" into the public lexicon with La Dolce Vita, and in that time, the relationship between photographer and celebrity has somehow become more bizarre than his famously fantastical film could have ever predicted.

Thanks to their omnipresent cameras, the paparazzi have helped blur the line between public and private, documenting triumphs and tragedies, breakups and meltdowns, and just about everything in between. And though their subjects claim to hate them, those same photographers are directly responsible for keeping the very famous, well, very famous. It's a symbotic relationship in every sense of the word (except when it ends in a punch-up, of course).

Here's a look at some of the most memorable moments in that relationship; the highs and lows from five decades of co-dependence, with the occasional threat of bodily harm thrown in for good measure. Love them or hate them, one thing is clear: the paparazzi are here to stay. By James Montgomery





Britney Spears Goes Bald, Brandishes an Umbrella

For better or worse, it's become one of the decade's most identifiable images: Britney, the former Princess of Pop, unhinged. Her head shaved and her eyes wild, she bashed a vehicle with an umbrella, the final chapter in a three-year fall from grace. Spears claimed her bizarre behavior was the result of her getting "carried away" in her research for a movie role, but most seemed to think it signified her hitting rock bottom. Of course, Britney would rebound as only Britney could: with Blackout, an album that's come to be hailed as a pop classic.

hugh grant

Harold Cunningham/WireImage

Hugh Grant Gets Creative

How very British: In 2007, paparazzi fave Hugh Grant fought back, tossing a Tupperware container of baked beans at a photog waiting outside his home. The U.K. tabloids would have a field day with this one, and Grant was even arrested on suspicion of assault, though prosecutors declined to press charges. No word on the status of the beans, however.

Chris Martin Coldplay

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Chris Martin Demands ‘Respect’

The laid-back Coldplay frontman was pushed too far in 2008, after paparazzi tried to photograph his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow as she exited a New York hospital. Martin sprung into action, throwing a pap to the ground and snatching the camera from his hand. "You've got to have some respect," the defensive daddy growled. Message received.

Kristen Stewart Rupert Sanders

Steve Granitz/WireImage

K-Stew and R-Patz Go K-Put

Kristen Stewart's relationship with Robert Pattinson came to a rather abrupt end in 2012, after paparazzi scored photos of her in the arms of her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders… who also happened to be married at the time. As any Twi-hard will tell you, it wasn't supposed to end this way.

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Justin Bieber, SuperThug

Justin Bieber went berserk on British photographers in 2013, after one of them claimed that a mere brush-by constituted assault. The pap in question kept talking (he called Bieber a "fucking little cock,") at which point JB leapt from a van looking for a fight. We can understand why he'd want to punch the dude, but we're still unclear why Bieber was dressed like PaRappa the Rapper.

GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Kanye West Flies the Unfriendly Skies

Note to photographers: Do not step to Kanye West, especially when he's at the airport. In 2013, 'Ye had two separate incidents with paparazzi at LAX, and though he managed to avoid any serious legal trouble, he definitely let it be known that he wouldn't be a willing subject. And, hey, at least he's got some new material for those onstage rants.

Tan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Alec Baldwin: Coffee is for Punchers Only

Much like Kanye, Alec Baldwin probably won't be sending Christmas cards to the paparazzi any time soon. For decades, he's enjoyed an adversarial relationship with the media, though in 2013, things boiled over when he attacked a photog outside of his Manhattan apartment – and allegedly used an anti-gay slur while doing so, a move that cost him his MSNBC show, and had him proclaiming "Goodbye, public life."

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Bjork Bashes a Reporter in Bangkok

Anyone who's heard Björk sing knows she's capable of summoning a mighty roar, and the same can be said about her rage. At least that's what one unlucky reporter discovered in 1996, when, after greeting the singer at a Bangkok airport, she was subjected to some old-fashioned Icelandic ire. Björk snapped, tearing at the journalist's hair and tossing her to the ground — the end result of what her record label described as "days of harassment." She'd subsequently apologize for the outburst, though 12 years later, she'd strike again, this time attacking a photographer at Auckland International Airport. 

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