RIP: Ron Galella

Ron Galella, one of the world’s most famous photographers, died on April 30, 2022, as a result of congestive heart failure.  Mr. Galella was 91.

Ron Galella was an Air Force photographer in the early 1950s.  After leaving the Air Force, Mr. Galella received a degree in photojournalism from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.  Ron Galella always enjoyed snapping photos of celebrities and would often find a market for those pictures at publications like The National Enquirer or in movie magazines.  As Mr. Galella’s photos became more in demand, he began selling to better publications such as Time, The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair and many, many others.

Ron Galella become one of the first and best known paparazzi.  Mr. Galella’s style was to take candid photos of celebrities by approaching them at very close range.  Often he would hide or surprise the celebrities, catching them off-guard.  Several celebs took exception to Ron Galella’s methods:

  • Jackie Onassis won a restraining order that Mr. Galella couldn’t get within 25 feet of her. (Mrs. Onassis also ordered her bodyguards to smash his camera!)
  • Marlon Brando broke Ron Galella’s jaw and knocked out 5 of his teeth!  Mr. Galella sued and won $40,000.  The next time Mr. Galella approached Marlon Brando for photos,  Galella wore a football helmet!
  • Richard Burton’s bodyguards badly beat Ron Galella.  Mr. Galella unsuccessfully sued Mr. Burton.
  • Ron Galella was spit on and punched (Sean Penn), had his tires slashed (Elvis’ bodyguards), was sprayed with a hose (Bridget Bardot’s security) and more.

The negative publicity created a greater demand for Ron Galella’s photos.  His run-ins with celebrities continually made news.  Remember, these events took place when most celebrity photos were planned shots used to put the celeb in the best light and promote their latest movie, book or show. Ron Galella’s photos were to show celebs in in a light that they couldn’t control.

Ultimately Ron Galella had several books dedicated to his pictures, and his photos have been shown in museums!

Ron Galella became a celebrity because of his photos of celebrities.  He also inspired a generation of photographers in an era where there was no internet or TMZ.   Mr. Galella really leaned into his bad-boy image and it helped make him famous. Still, it is important to remember that if his photos were terrible, none of that other stuff would have mattered.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ron Galella’s family, friends and fans.