Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Non-Fiction Pick: Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous

Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous
by Jennifer Buhl
Sourcebooks
2014
352 pages
ISBN: 9781402237007

Visit the author's website and learn more about her adventures in Hollywood

Jennifer Buhl, like so many starry-eyed dreamers,  moved to Hollywood to find fame and fortune on the silver screen. Just like the thousands of others, she finds herself waiting tables and counting her pennies not her job offers. A chance encounter with a mob of photogs convince her that she's in the wrong business. Instead of waiting on customers and picking up tips, she could be following celebrities and picking up "tips" about their whereabouts.

She convinces Richard, a nice looking paparazzi, to allow her to ride along with him on his next adventure. They follow Britney Spears up a steep canyon road to her house. They're not alone--about 25 other photogs are in the convoy of tinted windowed SUVs. They leave empty handed but Buhl is fascinated. She finds a news agency online and talks her way into a job--a sort of job. At first using borrowed camera equipment, Buhl learns the ins and outs of celebrity "shooting."

Shooting Stars reads like a gossip-y reality show or an episode of E News. There's plenty of name dropping and some name calling--take that, Seal! Readers learn that Seal does not have very nice behavior toward a female photographer, Nicole Richie secretly likes the paps, Paris Hilton will always pose and she drives slowly so the paps can get their best shots. Some celebs are not so nice--Seal, for one according to Buhl and Keith Urban and wife  Nicole Kidman are private people who don't take kindly to a photog sneaking pictures of them.

The inside scoop on the paparazzi is detailed throughout the book. Most of the paps live and work in L.A. which has the highest numbers of stars. Most of the seasoned paps are British--they started their careers as news photographers. Now, many of the paps are from Mexico or South America. Most are male; very few are female. Buhl learns to pay for tips and has a grocery clerk tip her off when a celebrity is sighted in his store.

There are some cardinal sins to shooting photos: don't take pictures of celebrities' children or at their school, don't ever take a photo of a celebrity inside her home or in the back yard, ask if you may take the photo, make eye contact, if you can make a celebrities  laugh, they will always allow you to take a photo.  Also, ugly pictures don't sell. The public wants to see pretty pictures of celebrities doing normal things: walking the dog, shopping for groceries, or driving a car. They don't want to see their favorite celebrity in a compromising shot. No one ever "outs" a celebrity until the celebrity comes out of the closet on his/her own.

Buhl clears up the misconceived notion that celebrities hate the paparazzi; most celebrities realize the paps help keep them current and in the news. If their pictures aren't out there, the public soon forgets them and they are no longer relevant. In fact, it's a well known fact that many stars call the paparazzi to let them know they are going to an event: a Christmas tree lot or a pumpkin patch or even shopping. The paps get their photos, the photos are paid for, and surprisingly, the paps sometimes even give a percentage back to the star.


The relationship between the paparazzi and celebrities can get heated but for the most part it is symbiotic--each needs the other in order to make money and have a career. Buhl gives readers what they want: a chatty book about a young woman trying to make it work in Hollywood and chasing the dream of working in entertainment. With the onset of Twitter, the paps now know exactly where celebrities are located. If a celebrity posts that she's getting her hair done, the paps knows exactly where she is. Instagram makes it easy for celebrities to post their own images and control what pictures of them are out in the public eye.

Recommended grade 9-up. Language, mature situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the arc from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


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