Not a single star survived. He had a knack for capturing their truth. And the art of angering them.
Cheeky, racy, resourceful, he can camouflage for days on end in a warehouse, concocting fake party invitations, crap janitors, bribing cleaners. He preset his settings in case there was a problem with the star, pulled the camera at arm’s length and shot him before turning.
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The paparazzi had a heart. When Greta Garbo begged him to stop the harassment (“I didn’t do anything wrong!”), he complied. Warhol loved him, and they shared an obsession with fame. “Everyone wants to be rich and famous, so everyone wants to know how these people got there,” Galila claimed to rejoice in the good times. In the 2000s, the classification of the person formerly nicknamed “The Cockroach” has ended up climbing, and the era needs to change. We considered him an artist, we showed him in galleries. He, who owns millions of unpublished photos, runs his fund with his wife Betty. Ron Galella regularly published books, such as “New York” or “The Disco Years”. On the cover of the latest singer Grace Jones, Studio Era 54. “Can I keep it? I asked, suddenly with nostalgia, to a journalist who was showing her the set in the hope that she would gift it to him.
Ronald Galila froze a bygone era, real stars in the power of youth. Priceless treasure. He presented himself as a defender of media freedom. His motto has never changed: “Seeing extraordinary people doing ordinary things. Born in 1931, raised in a humble Italian-American family in the Bronx, he turned to photography during his military service, conducted in the middle of the Korean War, before training at the University of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where she graduated in photojournalism.
Hollywood fifties… the stars were swarming. Galila, who wanted to get close to them, worked first from afar, then closer. “I was due to become a studio photographer, but I didn’t have the money. I made the world my studio, which is a good thing, because I had to compete with Irving Penn and the others. But I made something different, revealing photos of people. And who harassed them!” Brando brushed his teeth, Richard Burton threatened him with death before he invited him to his wedding, and Sean Penn spat on him… He is now tasting posterity thanks to his obsession with a woman.
Often, in the late afternoon, Jackie walks or runs around the reservoir in Central Park. Ron Galella is about to leave with a friend when he sees her escaping from her home on 1040 Fifth Avenue through a back door. Galila takes off, but how does he catch his “prey” and take it from the front without escaping from it? He gets into a cab, swaying at his instructions: “Follow this woman, drive slowly so you don’t lose her. He opens the window and slams the shutter. A clicking sound. Jackie must not have heard that familiar, disgraceful noise, because she made a mistake that day. One of the few.” Contrary to her cautious instincts, she turns to the camera, her hair is flying, dark glasses in her hand. She even makes a smile, not yet knowing that Galila is in a flood. This miraculous 1971 photograph, impressively framed, was one of the most published of Jacqueline Kennedy. Onassis.
In a second, Galila absorbed the magic of the most mysterious woman in the world. The eternal victim who had bits of her husband’s brain taken out in Dallas, in 1963, wore jeans and looked natural, human, beautiful, accessible, light. This painting was called “The Mona Lisa”. The image represents one of the last “possible” interactions between them. His passion for Jackie goes back to an order from Motion Picture in 1967. It involved stealing a few seconds from a widow’s life while opening an art exhibition. The result was modest (she is in the crowd with her financial advisor Andrei Mayer), tickling him. He succumbs to the allure of this woman: not only the tabloids demand it, but also Time and Newsweek … He shoots his children, John Jr. and Caroline, in tennis, on bicycles, in boats, on horseback.
He chases their mother to the restaurant (one of his “scoops”: eating Jackie with chopsticks), on vacation in Skorpios with Onassis, on her balcony, going so far as to have an affair with her maid…” He became obsessive, my favorite celebrity. I swear, to justify Himself, that she finally appreciates being portrayed this way: “Hypocritical. Nothing could be further from the truth. She hated him, and sued him multiple times to get him to stop getting close to her and her family. “Break his device!” It was the famous phrase she uttered without conceding to take a look at him. Ron Galella was threatened with imprisonment and the hunt was stopped.
Her book “Jacqueline” sounds like a great memories album. Forget the duplicity created by the enemy.