Frank Griffin arrived in Los Angeles fourteen years ago, almost burnt out after nearly three decades of rock and roll photography. Three weeks later, he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident. Randy Bauer busted his a... pounding the pavement of Manhattan in his early teens. His first picture was published at the tender age of 16. A decade ago, he jumped a Greyhound bus for California with only a Leica M6 to his name.
On all the hard drives of all the computers in all those magazines and photo agencies, Bauer-Griffin has an unprecedented record of a few hundred lives. Breathtaking in its reach and volume, it is an anthology of the habits and mores of a small class of rich people in Southern California. Pictures, pixelated and cursory, of Reese Witherspoon at a stoplight, Renee Zellweger at the newsstand, and Pamela Anderson at Starbucks. Images of Meg Ryan dancing cheek to cheek with Russell Crowe. Copious documentation of Britney Spears' antics in Hollywood, Matt LeBlanc's wedding on a hillside in Kauai, and the demise of the affair of J. Lo and Ben Affleck.
A few years back, when paparazzi pictures appeared mostly in the tabloids, the stories were all melodrama - affairs and scandals and lifestyles of the rich and famous. Now Bauer-Griffin supplies the world's press with photographs of celebrities, the demand for which can never be fulfilled.
"Paps are the only real journalists in Hollywood."
"Listen," Brad Pitt says, "if the shit wasn't consumed, the paparazzi wouldn't be there. The demand is there. I think it's our insecurities. It's about needing to see someone else in a bad light. Or, on the flip side, it's about what we long for. I don't know. I like seeing candid photos of people. I'll look at them."
"We don't have to worry about who we piss off," Griffin
says. "Everyone's already pissed at us."