For many the growth of paparazzi culture is an index of our celebrity obsession; but if you are actually among the celebrity obsessed paparazzi may actually engender a certain allure: "Wouldn't it be great to have someone follow me!"
So, naturally young lads pop up volunteering to do exactly that. For a hefty fee, which, no doubt, is part of this perverse pleasure. Sonia Zjawinski reports in Wired on the pleasure of having a long lens trail her around for a day of self-financed narcissism. Dressed in jeans and a camo hoodie, her everyday blandness now signals a celebrity in disguise, caught in moments of simulated naturalness as she emerges from a Starbucks. Plus, when it's all over she gets her pictures published in Wired—ironies abound.
We live in the age of the candid snapshot. People don't want to pose for glamour photos; they want artful images that look unstaged and off-the-cuff, like a party pic from TheCobrasnake.com or a tousled cover model on Vice magazine. But calculated spontaneity is hard to pull off without the help of a professional. And I wanted some pics of me that say "I look awesome even when I'm not trying." That's where Izaz Rony comes in. The 22-year-old, who credits YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook as inspirations, does guerrilla-style photo shoots for $500 an hour and up. It's like hiring a stalker for a day.
After setting up a shoot with Rony, I email him some recent snapshots so he'll recognize me. I also supply a vague itinerary of my plans for the following Sunday, leaving it fairly open — I want to act the part of a harried celeb with TMZ on my trail.
When the day arrives, I'm a mess. What do you wear to be photographed by your very own paparazzo? I don't want to look like I'm going to the Oscars, but I can't rock my everyday grungy freelancer garb. I try on 15 different outfits before settling on the right pair of jeans, then I make sure my hair has that perfect slept-in look.
I finally make it out of the apartment, and it's not long before I catch that glimpse of my stalker. I suddenly become hyperaware of myself. Do I look authentic? Am I being spontaneous enough? My nose is running, but I'm afraid to wipe it; a shutter-click at the wrong moment might look like I'm picking my nose or nursing a huge coke habit. Will my friends warn me if I have a latte-foam mustache? Do I make funny faces when I talk? Do Lindsay and Britney spend every waking moment worrying about this stuff?
I leave the coffee shop with Rony trailing unobtrusively. I'm beginning to understand why celebrities go nuts, shave their heads, and bounce in and out of rehab; I would, too, if I had relentless photographers on my tail 24/7. When I stop to peruse a pair of shoes at an outdoor stall, Rony snaps away at me through a rack of dresses, startling a fellow shopper. "Sorry," I sheepishly explain. "That's, uh ... my photographer."
I don't feel like a celebutante hounded by the media anymore; I feel like the lamest lame-o in Phonytown. And I've had enough of it. I call off the shoot.
For days, I'm afraid to look at the disc that Rony burns for me — 60 images in all. But surprisingly, I end up liking them. I actually look like my authentic self. They may not be worthy of the cover of Us Weekly, but they are perfect for posting on MySpace. I can only hope that people who visit my profile don't pick up on the $500-an-hour fee and stress-filled day of paranoia and humiliation."