When do you ever see a female paparazzo? Exactly. Paparazzi Bitch is a new photo book by Nadja Sayej, a New York culture journalist and photographer. This book features over 100 photos taken over the past 10 years, showcasing portraits of celebrities from the female gaze.
Paparazzi photography as an exciting chase — a predator-prey relationship where typically a (male) photographer hunts down a (female) celebrity for a photograph. But with a woman behind the lens, how does the female gaze change a photograph of a celebrity? By featuring over 100 celebrities shot at VIP events, film festivals, fashion weeks and parties, this book proves that paparazzi photography can have a soul. I also hope to show that having a “Press Pass” doesn’t mean shit, unless you’re willing to fight, elbow and jump for a shot in a sea of male photographers, who are often condescending and downright rude to their female counterparts.
And why is it called “Paparazzi Bitch?” You have to be a bitch to fight to the front of the line to get the shot. Many of the photos in this book are “stolen shots,” meaning that I was not supposed to be there taking photos. If you’re accredited at a press event as a writer, you’re not supposed to be taking photos (you are only allowed to have one talent, apparently). “For step-and-repeat events where I have been accredited as a photographer, I got shots of celebs coming out of cars, walking towards venues, also not typically allowed, but I wanted a unique shot, so I got them and here they are,” says Nadja Sayej. “No regrets.”
Featuring photos of Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, Salma Hayek, Naomi Watts, Sofia Coppola, and more, this is a diary of fighting to the top. “I’m a culture journalist who has been covering the arts and entertainment scene over the past 15 years,” says Sayej. “I’m not a paparazzi, I don’t hide out in bushes to get photos. I go to events to do my job as a journalist and these are the photos I have gotten on the side, as a passing distraction.”
She adds: “This book hopes to raise awareness of all the women photographers who spend their lives behind the lens — often fighting for their spots on the red carpet, in Hollywood or on the streets of New York.”
Is a female paparazzo a more “gentle” photographer than a man? Why are women photographers still overlooked in the entertainment industry? Why don’t we know about more great women photographers? As Diane Arbus once said: “Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” These are my stolen shots as a woman with a “purse cam.”
What does the female gaze look like in celebrity photography? We are long beyond the time of a paparazzo being the “predator” and the actress being the “prey.” Nowadays, more and more women photographers are on the streets, on the red carpet and behind the scenes at film festivals. The result? A sisterhood has emerged that shows stars in a different light.
The book features photos of celebrities like Lady Gaga, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys and Paris Hilton, this book features over 100 photos of celebrities, art stars and luminaries, up close and personal, taken between 2011 to 2022. It also features photos of Sarah Jessica Parker, Marina Abramovic, Naomi Watts, Sofia Coppola, and more, this is a different light than we’ve seen them through the male gaze. They’re not just objects of desire. With behind-the-scenes shots, Sayej hopes to raise awareness of all the women photographers who spend their lives behind the lens—often fighting for their spots on the red carpet, in Hollywood or on the streets of New York.
From the art world to film festivals, backstage at concerts, fashion week front rows and house parties, this is a backstage pass to the lives of the rich and famous. Consider it a photo diary from someone backstage, even if only for a fleeting moment (literally: 5 minute time slots), tracing the lineage of pop culture in a way we might never see again.
“It’s a business of looks, if you don’t look good, you’re a fool,” as Joan Rivers once said.
About the Author
Nadja Sayej is a culture journalist and photographer based in New York City. She has interviewed over 500 celebrities, from Salma Hayek to Sarah Paulson and Kathleen Turner. Over the past 15 years, she has covered music, film, TV and art for publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Forbes and Architectural Digest, among others. All of her work is marked by historic cultural shifts, memorable moments and fleeting moments of spontaneity. Originally from Toronto, she spent 10 years living in Europe as a foreign correspondent in Berlin and Paris. With laxed PR rules, this is where she got a lot of exclusive photos, many of which are in this collection.