Synopsis by Mark Deming
Years before the word "paparazzi" had any meaning for most Americans, Ron Galella exemplified the new breed of celebrity photographers who specialized in shots of stars with their guards down, and he was wildly successful in the 1960s and '70s while also making more than a few enemies among the wealthy and famous. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, one of Galella's favorite subjects, took him to court in 1972 to prevent him from obsessively following her (Galella was given a restraining order preventing him from coming within 150 feet of her for the rest of her life), while in 1973 Marlon Brando took a more direct approach, punching the photographer in the face and breaking his jaw as Galella tried to snap his picture. While Galella seemingly has little sense of shame or propriety about his work, he also had a gift for capturing exciting images on the run, and unlike most of his peers his work has been shown in galleries around the world and he's widely regarded as the most gifted artist in his chosen field. Filmmaker Leon Gast offers a look at the public and private sides of Ron Galella in the documentary Smash His Camera, in which he talks about his career, his attitude abut celebrity culture, and his run-ins with some of his subjects. Smash His Camera was an official selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.