The world’s obsession with salacious moments, captured by the paparazzi and plastered all over the front pages of the tabloids, is undeniable. The paps, classed as a branch of photographers who specialize in candid photographs of famous musicians, actors and actresses, athletes, and misc. celebrities, are infamous for their often controversial photographs that can bring us news as it happens, or reveal a celebrity’s secret to the world without their knowing.
Understandably there is a lot of general distaste for the paparazzi, particularly among celebrities. They are generally regarded as rude, invasive, and sometimes even dangerous, the death of Princess Diana while attempting to escape paparazzi being one incident often used as evidence in the latter case. However, they still have a taboo sort of allure among most consumers of popular culture — something about seeing a celebrity not at less than their best has a compulsive appeal, and keeps the paparazzi in business. Arguably, it’s a reciprocal relationship; the gutter press makes sure ‘celebrity’ is still a commodity, and some fading stars have been known to tip off the paps to keep their faces in the papers.
More often than not though, the paparazzi goes too far, invading the privacy of the world’s biggest stars to an arguably illegal degree in order to get the most shocking scoop. Here, we’ve taken a look at fifteen just such cases, when some of the most scandalous moments in the history of celebrity were caught by the paparazzi, whether sad, violent, shocking, scandalous – or all four at the same time.
15. Madonna cheating
Madonna and Guy Ritchie were the golden couple of their age, and were happily (for the most part) married for eight years. That is, until incriminating photos broke, showing Madonna hooking up with Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees in her apartment in New York city. The story hit the news in 2008, courtesy of US Weekly. These photos spelled the end of the Madonna-Ritchie marriage, with the couple officially splitting months later.
14. Britney Spears’ stumble
In 2006, the paparazzi in New York caught shocking footage of Britney Spears almost dropping her eight-month old baby after stumbling. Happily her bodyguard was quick to steady her and make sure that the baby came to no harm. Spears had just left the Ritz Carlton hotel and exited to a huge crowd of paparazzi, which may have startled her enough to explain her tripping on the heel of her shoe and stumbling. However, she was also holding a tumbler in her other hand, which prompted less kind speculation as to the reason for her lack of balance.
13. Princess Diana moments before the crash that killed her
In perhaps the most infamous paparazzi incident of all time, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997 while trying to escape the photographers. The car also contained her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, and their driver and bodyguard. The bodyguard was the only survivor. A photo taken by paparazzi just minutes before the fatal crash shows a glimpse of Diana in the back seat looking nervously back at the photographers, with an unusually cheerful looking chauffeur.
Evidence which came to light in 2008 indicated that the driver of Diana’s car was guilty of driving over the limit, while the paparazzi in question were also guilty of unlawful killing.
12. Michael Jackson’s baby dangling
In 2002, a controversial paparazzi shot was taken which saw Michael Jackson dangling his nine-month old baby over a balcony of a hotel in Berlin. Seemingly an attempt to connect with his fans on the road below, Jackson precariously dangled Prince Michael II over the balcony, holding him with just one arm around the baby’s waist. The child had a towel over his head, and prompted screams from the fans below who were concerned for his welfare.
11. Elizabeth Taylor cheating
With an impressive track record of having been married eight times, Elizabeth Taylor claimed that fellow Cleopatra star Richard Burton was the love of her life. This became apparent when she was caught on camera, clearly conducting a romantic affair with him while on a yacht in 1962. They were both married to other people at the time, and went on to divorce their respective spouses to marry each other.
10. Heath Ledger taking cocaine
Controversial paparazzi images which seem to depict the now deceased Heath Ledger before, during and after taking cocaine caused such uproar that they came under scrutiny for their potentially immoral origins. A lawsuit was filed against a Hollywood photo agency as a result of allegations that two of its paparazzi supplied ledger with cocaine so that they could record it on camera.
The incident took place in January 2006 at an after-party of an awards show. To give Ledger, a well known substance abuser, access to illegal drugs in order to obtain lucrative footage would be only be inarguably immoral but could be illegal.
9. Kristen Stewart cheating
Kristen Stewart brought an end to the magic of a real-life Twilight couple when she cheated on Robert Pattinson with Rupert Sanders, director of Snow White and the Huntsman, in which she starred. The story broke in 2012 when candid footage of Saunders and Stewart’s affair emerged, showing the two getting very close and personal in public with apparent disregard for the consequences. This eventually spelled the end of Stewart’s relationship with Pattinson, as well as Sanders’ marriage to Liberty Ross.
8. Brad and Jen pre-break up
In an accidentally poignant paparazzi shot, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were photographed taking a walk on a beach in Anguilla just before the news of their split broke. The photo, taken in 2005, is the last photo of the couple together, and is all the more heartrending as it was initially used in publications to combat the rumours of an impending split.
What was viewed as a romantic stroll at the time became apparent as a farewell when the pair publicly confirmed that they had split up soon afterwards.
7. Justin Bieber (nearly) smoking weed
This one is an almost caught-on-camera moment, but still deserves a mention for its sheer magnitude: Bieber narrowly managed to escape being photographed by a member of the paparazzi, allegedly while smoking weed. The whole event was a disaster, with a photographer actually being killed in his haste to document Justin Bieber smoking: Chris Guerra was hit by a car after rushing out into the street in order to photograph the star on New Year’s Day, 2013.
6. Nicole Richie in bikini
Rumours that Nicole Richie was suffering from an eating disorder were already rife at the time of this shocking paparazzi photograph, taken in 2006, which showed the star looking emaciated in a bikini on the beach. Richie had undergone dramatic weight loss in the year leading up to this shocking image.
The photo became infamous and saw an enormous amount of negative publicity generated for Richie at the time, as well as encouraging a disturbing ‘pro-ana’ movement among people purportedly impressed by her waif-like figure.
5. Jennie Garth crying
Star of Beverley Hills, 90210 Jennie Garth was snapped by paparazzi in tears earlier this year. In this set of photos Garth flips the cameras off and is clearly crying, apparently as a result of a racist and unlawful decision making at Club DBA in Hollywood, which saw three black friends of Garth’s being refused admission.
4. Tim Burton cheating
If there’s one couple that the world would expect to be free of cheating rumours, it’s Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. The two seem so perfectly suited – and joined at the hip – that it’s hard to believe infidelity would ever be an issue. However, in 2013 Burton was was blurrily caught on camera kissing an anonymous woman after they’d been to the cinema together. The whole issue was swept under the carpet for the most part, however, and Bonham Carter and Burton are still together.
3. Amy Winehouse covered in blood
Before her untimely death in 2011, Amy Winehouse was infamous for the frequent images taken by the paps in which she appeared worse for wear. In one particularly shocking photograph, taken in 2007, Winehouse appears with husband Blake sporting various visible bruises and wearing blood-stained clothing and shoes. It is rumoured that the injuries were as a result of a fight with Blake, which doesn’t seem unlikely given their famously volatile relationship. However, Winehouse denied these claims.
2. Final photograph of Tupac
In another poignant photograph courtesy of the paparazzi, a photo taken mere minutes before Tupac was killed shows the rapper staring out of the window of a black BMW. He was fatally wounded in a shooting shortly afterwards. The photo is another example of an ordinary snap gaining gravitas as a result of events which followed.
1. Nigella Lawson being attacked
In what is possibly the most famous paparazzi offering of recent years, last year English TV chef Nigella Lawson was photographed being assaulted and choked by her husband Charles Saatchi during a row at a restaurant in London. Saatchi is reported to have grabbed Lawson round the throat no less than four times, and reduced her to tears – visible in shots taken by the paparazzi – during the altercation.