Programming note: CNN Presents "Chasing Angelina" explores celebrity obsession. Saturday and Sunday, May 13-14, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET
In defense of paparazzi
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Frank Griffin, a photographer and co-owner of the paparazzi agency Bauer-Griffin, says he strives to be as "professional as I can" in his line of work.
Griffin sat down with "CNN Presents" as part of a documentary, "Chasing Angelina: Paparazzi and Celebrity Obsession." He shed light on what it is like to be a member of the paparazzi. (Read an opposing view on paparazzi from publicist Ken Sunshine by clicking here.)
QUESTION: Have you ever been in any altercations with celebrities?
GRIFFIN: There's never been violence in my whole life. I've never been sued. I've never been arrested and I never had a threat of violence, of being in a violent situation. I have with other photographers. Other photographers have smacked me and I've retaliated, but I've never had a situation where the talent gets upset. ... Instead of being aggressive or argumentative, you say, "Look, I'm really sorry if I've upset you. My name is Frank. I'm part of what you do for a living and I'm really sorry." And I think a lot of them accept it. ...
If somebody climbs a ladder they could fall off. If they have to take a picture ... they could fall off. But I think every care is taken, and I have to emphasize there's never an intention of causing damage. Yes, somebody can trip over a wire or ... their foot can slip and an accident can happen.
Q: What about the Lindsay Lohan accident she blamed on the paparazzi?
GRIFFIN: Everybody says Lindsay Lohan was driving the car that was rammed by a photographer. It wasn't. And the police made the investigations and decided that the photographer wasn't at fault. I've seen some images and I do know that if a 19-year-old girl is driving a $150,000 to $160,000 car capable of 150 miles an hour, hangs a "U" on Beverly Boulevard at four in the afternoon, it's kind of an accident looking for somewhere to happen. That's my opinion. I know there is footage that ... exonerates the photographer that crashed into [her] that day. But nobody says that, because it doesn't make good copy.
Q: Are the paparazzi invading celebrities' privacy?
GRIFFIN: Contrary to what Ken Sunshine says, it doesn't happen [paparazzi living in trees outside celebs' houses]. I have a thousand magazines in the next room. And if you can show me one picture that's been taken inside someone's house or of children playing inside their yard, it simply doesn't [happen]. It's not the case. ...
Let's face it. If a lot of the celebrities were given the choice earlier in their career when they're quite young and before they start out and they say, "Look, here's a piece of paper. I'll give you a million dollars a week for your TV show. But it means that there's gonna be a photographer outside your house five days out of seven, possibly more if you're successful. If you're making $2 million a week, they're gonna be outside your door seven days a week." So what would you rather do? Wouldn't you want to sign this form and take the $2 million a week and have the photographers? Or do you want to work in a bank for the rest of your life?
And I know. Which would they do? I'm quite sure they'd accept that. That's not making excuses for what I do, but I think many of them would accept the limelight in return for their paycheck.
Q: Should celebrities' children be off limits?
GRIFFIN: I remember when Julia Roberts had that little brief fling with the guy from Friends, Matthew Perry, and I followed her one day and she stopped and she walked over to me and she said, "I'm gonna go and pick my niece up." This is a good few years ago. And I said, "Look, I'll do a deal."
I said, "Next time you're with Matthew you've got to do a picture for me and I'll leave you alone with your niece." And she did, and I didn't. ... You see, you got on the one hand the Britney Spearses selling their kid for $1 million to People [Magazine] and on the other hand they're covering them up and not allowing them to be photographed. So it's a very delicate issue, isn't it, whether you should photograph celebrities carrying their children.
Q: Thoughts on your profession?
GRIFFIN: If the only job you can do is street sweeping, then be at least the best street sweeper on the block. And that's what I've tried to do. There are obviously conflicts of conscience. And I really genuinely don't want to hurt people. But I try to be as professional as I can with my job.
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