The Photography Issue: Not just like us! The pre-stalkerazzi celeb shots of Gary Lee Boas
CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHY Before "stalkerazzi" was a word, before the first images of the Brangelina twins fetched a reported $14 million, and before the Internet spawned sites like tmz.com (stuffed with candid pictures of famous-ish trainwrecks like Kim Kardashian and Shauna Sand), there was a way of life that involved not knowing intimate details of every celebrity who dared to leave his or her house. Movie stars had a certain air of mystery and inaccessibility. But in 2008, there's no privacy anymore. We now know that stars are "just like us." As in, Reese Witherspoon eats fro-yo with a spoon just like me! Amy Winehouse falls down when she's drunk just like me! Uh, anyway. Hollywood studios used to stage advantageous photo ops of, like, Rock Hudson out on a date with his wife. These days celebrities have no choice but to put their entire lives on film, particularly if they're given to the kind of Britney Spears-ish behavior that can make the operator of a well-placed camera exceedingly well-paid.
All this makes Gary Lee Boas' Starstruck: Photographs from a Fan (Dilettante Press) all the more charming and understated. Boas has been touted as an outsider artist and, at least when the book was released in 1999, he was working as a professional paparazzo but first and foremost, the man is a fan. Starstruck collects Boas' treasured snapshots (the oldest taken by a teenage Boas in 1966, the collection runs to 1980) of luminaries he encountered on the street, outside movie and stage premieres, at restaurants, waving from the backseats of cars, entering talk-show studios, on film locations, and in other spots he staked out in search of famous quarry. The photos are of variable quality some are blurred, some have their subjects partially obscured by passersby. Some are clearly taken on the fly outside the Mike Douglas Show in 1978, Ida Lupino (flanked by a pair of nuns) squints into the sunshine and seems to be just noticing the eager, camera-wielding man to her right. A Godfather-young Diane Keaton beams at Boas (who must've been a pretty engaging snapper, considering most of his photos feature smiles) as she stands, hands clasped, on a New York City sidewalk.
Some of the pictures demand extended captions, as when Boas shares the story behind a much sought-after 1978 photo of the elusive Greta Garbo. But most are accompanied by brief notations of who, where, and when. Boas himself appears in a handful of photos, posing stiffly beside the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Ingrid Bergman. His expression in each is, appropriately, Starstruck reflecting a time when mystery and glitter and not just-like-us-ness suited stars just fine.