Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Remembering Ron Galella Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

3 May 2022

Celebrity photographer Ron Galella died at his home in Montville, N.J., on April 30. He was 91.

During his nearly six-decade career, he took over three million photographs of famous people doing something ordinary. His candid approach to celebrity photography earned him the title Paparazzo Extraordinaire from Newsweek.

His subjects included Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner, Gary Grant, Greta Garbo, John Wayne, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor, Bridget Bardot, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Bette David, Jimmy Cagney, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, to name just a few. Not to mention Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali, Joe Lewis, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Simon & Garfunkel, Jackie Onassis, Princess Diana, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

"My style is the paparazzi approach which is spontaneous, unrehearsed, off-guard. The beauty I'm after is inherent, more natural. Genuine emotions, real emotions, that's what I look for," he once described his approach.

'The beauty I'm after is inherent, more natural. Genuine emotions, real emotions, that's what I look for.'

Galella was born in New York City. His father had immigrated from Muro Lucano, Basilicata, and made a living making pianos and coffins. His mother was born in New Jersey to Italian immigrants and worked as a crochet beader. After graduating high school, he won a two-year scholarship at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn but turned it down.

Galella served in the U.S. Air Force as a photographer from 1951 to 1955, including during the Korean War. He subsequently attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, graduating with a degree in photojournalism in 1958.

In Los Angeles, Galella took pictures of movie stars arriving at their premieres and began selling them to magazines like National Enquirer and Photoplay.

In 1979, he married Betty Lou Burke, a photo editor whose voice he fell in love with two years before they actually met face-to-face.

"With one look at that beautiful girl, I said, 'I'm gonna marry you.' And five months later, we were," he once recalled. "Once married, we became a team." She became a photojournalist, editor, wife and business partner in their photo agency before preceding him in death 2017 after 37 years of marriage.

Intruding in the private lives of celebrities, Galella occasionally met resistance. "My job is thick with risks, threats, occasional violence and sometimes the necessary folly that sometimes courts humiliation and ridicule. But I don't care. I see myself as the dean of American paparazzi," he said.

Jacqueline Onassis sued him, getting a restraining order against him that he continually broke. Marlon Brando punched him in the face, breaking his jaw and knocking out five of his teeth, when Galella photographed him outside a New York City restaurant. This time Galella sued. He lost another tooth to Richard Burton's security guards. And his tires were slashed by Elvis Presley's body guards. To name just a few.

His photographs have been featured in hundreds of publications including Time, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, People, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Life. Galella made his own prints in his home darkroom, many of which have been exhibited at museums and galleries including the MoMA in New York City, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern in London, and the Helmut Newton Foundation Museum of Photography in Berlin.

BackBack to Photo Corners