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Exhibit celebrating paparazzi’s work faces backlash

September 8, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Princess Diana’s death has turned ``paparazzi″ into a dirty word _ so much so that one Manhattan gallery has been urged to change the title of a long-planned exhibit featuring artsy, nostalgic celebrity photos.

And many of the photographers featured in the show _ ``Il Paparazzo, 1954-1964″ and ``I Paparazzi, 1964-1997″ _ are running scared.

``The word paparazzi is loaded. They’re being harassed, they’re getting many phone calls, some are screening calls. They’re shaken,″ said Olivier Renaud-Clement, director of photography for the Robert Miller Gallery.

The show, meant to celebrate paparazzi techniques, was planned months ago, before the princess’ crash and the wave of public revulsion at the photographers who snapped away as she lay dying in the wreckage.

Last week, workers went ahead preparing the more than 200 cinema and celebrity photos for Tuesday’s opening. The black-and-white vintage images, in simple black frames, are being offered for $600 to about $5,000 each.

The show features the work of two dozen photographers. Some of the photos capture the budding romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as they starred in ``Cleopatra,″ and Anita Ekberg’s buxom femininity in Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic ``La Dolce Vita.″

The images are a far cry from the Paris auto crash eight days ago that paparazzi recorded on at least 20 rolls of film, an image reportedly worth anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million.

The New York gallery was still undecided on whether to include a photo of Diana last year in Washington, her back shining out of a low-cut, floor-length white gown as she walks away with designer Ralph Lauren.

``It’s too controversial,″ Renaud-Clement said.

He refused suggestions from colleagues to change the show’s name, although in Rome, the original paparazzo, Tazio Secchiaroli, 72, ``is really scared, he’s getting so many phone calls″ blasting his trade, said Amy Wanklyn of the Miller gallery. ``He won’t talk to anyone now.″

The term ``paparazzi,″ and its singular ``paparazzo,″ were coined by Fellini, who borrowed the nickname of a mischievous childhood friend. He had the world’s first ``paparazzo″ snapping photos in ``La Dolce Vita″ _ the ``sweet life″ of a glamor-filled Rome.

But when it came to the actual voyeurs with lenses, it was a time that brought ``candid violence″ to a life of pleasure, Renaud-Clement said.

For example, the most expensive photo in the exhibit captures Ekbert shooting an arrow at an overzealous photographer, wounding him slightly.

``Anita needed the paparazzi to make her a bombshell,″ Ms. Wanklyn said. ``But then she was trapped, with nowhere to go.″

Diana’s glamor was just as seductive.

``She needed the photographers to get out of her horrendous family situation. There is power in photography, and she cultivated it,″ Ms. Wanklyn said. ``But then she couldn’t just say, `Stop!‴

Now, French investigators are asking whether motorcycle-riding paparazzi played any role in the crash that killed Diana and two others and whether they took pictures instead of helping the victims. Ten men _ nine photographers and a motorcyclist _ are under investigation for manslaughter and failure to aid accident victims, a crime in France.

With the world mourning a woman who had both the glamor and humanity the lens seeks, the Manhattan show poses a question: Where is the line between ethics and popular aesthetics?

``Photography is by nature intrusive _ whether or not the subject agrees to be photographed,″ Renaud-Clement said.

And, he added, aside from the ``rush″ of capturing a shot, there’s no doubt most paparazzi, then and now, have one thing in common: ``They’re out to make a buck.″

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