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by Nick Didlick

Photo Editor

The Vancouver Sun


In this column I have decided to take a little venture away from technology to talk about an incident that has affected all of us in News Photography, the death of Princess Diana.

It was about four months ago, I had just finished tucking my 7 year old daughter into bed, logged on to the internet to check my e-mail when a message stopped my eye....Diana Princess of Wales in Paris car accident.

I thought at first it was wrong, or possibly a bad joke until I read on to learn that photographers were blamed for causing the accident and I began to feel uneasy. I immediately turned on the radio and TV, and was reading the internet online services Reuters, MSNBC, CNN Interactive all carrying information about Diana, The Princess of Wales was dead along with the driver of the Mercedes, and her friend Dodi Al Fayed, a fourth person a body guard in the car was in critical condition.

Seven photographers were arrested at the scene and were being blamed for causing the accident. My God, this can't be true, it just doesn't make sense. It didn't make sense to me, because for 5 years I worked in Europe, shoulder to shoulder with the paparazzi that were blamed for the accident.

As a photographer I have covered the Princess not only in Canada, but in Europe and the Middle East when she was on tour. In fact I was once introduced to her during an official press reception in Oman and was captivated by her charm and personality like the rest of the world was. It was my job at the time as a photographer for Reuters News Agency to supply the world with pictures, in which it had an infinite appetite for which was unprecedented even in the late 1980's.

The story of the Princess of Wales, is really one of a fairly tale Princess like in the story books I read to my daughter. Only Princess Diana's story is real with all the joy and the tears, that we all experience in our own lives in which she shared with us. This is really were she gained her mass popularity, she was really a Princess that we could touch, relate to on some level and sympathise with.

This is why I felt guilty when I broke the news to my seven year old the following morning, when I told her the Princess had died in a car accident and it looked like the accident had been caused by photographers.

The way she looked at me was one that said it all, Daddy how could your photographer friends kill the Princess.

During the first few weeks after Diana's death the world blamed the paparazzi. And even after most of the facts have come out, the world still blames them for the accident. The reason the world will always think the paparazzi caused the accident is because it's a sexier story than the brutal reality of the accident. And it is a story that is a haunting one for all of us that work in photojournalism.

Even though the facts so far?, point out that Diana, Dodi and their driver were killed in an alcohol and speed related car accident with the possibility of a second car involved, it is not as good a story as seven paparazzi photographers hunt down and kill the world's most photographed woman.

I personally know one of the so called paparazzi, Jacques Langevin of French News Agency SIPA.

Jacques is a quiet French gentleman with an impressive photojournalism career to date. Most notably he shot the pictures from Tianamen Square the night Chinese troops cleared the square of protesters resulting in many deaths, his pictures fronted newspapers and news magazines world wide at great personal risk to himself. His story of that night which he tells sheepishly, is one of those that photojournalism books are based on.

He is not a paparazzi in anyway, and arrived on the scene of the fatal Mercedes accident in the Paris tunnel by car, not on a motorbike. But the world treats all of us in the photojournalism community with the same brush. I am sure that all of us have a story to relate about the days out on assignment shortly after the death of Diana, but some are very disturbing .

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - In an apparent backlash against the media following the death of Princess Diana, construction workers attacked a female newspaper photographer covering a story.

The photographer, who was not identified, was shoved, the camera was pushed in her face and she was knocked to the ground as at least 10 men gathered around her when she arrived to take photos of a construction accident, The Christchurch Press newspaper reported Monday.

CONNELLSVILLE, PA, USA - Scott LaClair, photographer with the Uniontown Herald-Standard, was attacked by a mob angered by Diana's death in Connellsville. Pa. He had his glasses scratched but was not injured. Story was moved by AP late last night. Two were charged with harassment and disorderly conduct after police reviewed a videotape of the incident.

In the days shortly after the crash many photographers and news organisations where distancing themselves from the seven "paparizzi's arrested in the Diana crash. The NPPA even came out with the follow declaration.

"NPPA Princess Diana News Release

pa-pa-raz-zo, n., pl. paparazzi

A freelance photographer who doggedly pursues celebrities to take candid

pictures for sale to magazines and newspapers. (American Heritage Dictionary definition)

Every serious photojournalist is appalled at the tragedy in Paris. In every profession, there are people who go too far--who stretch the notions of ethics and decency."

Journalism is a tough business, it is especially true today in this mass media and instant news world in which we live in. And the public can not see the difference from the so called paparazzi from us news photographers or colleagues in the other professional photographic trades.

We have to take the good photo assignments along with the tough photo assignments and it's dangerous to try and distance ourselves from the seven photographers arrested that night in Paris. Why? because they where doing just what we do every day, provide readers with pictures they want to see. We may not like what they do, but I can not say that I like covering car accidents, funerals or doing stake outs either. And to some degree the papers we work for, and all the printed media should hang their heads in shame as they have all published pictures from paparazzi photographers. Also it must be noted that these paparazzi exist because the general public wants to see pictures of the famous in magazines and tabloid papers.

This year the world mourned the loss of their real story book Princess. But unlike the words in a fairy tale this one has such a tear filled, gut wrenching tragic end, one that every parent of a teenager lives in fear of, a knock on the door late at night with the police bringing the news that your child has been involved in a high speed drunk driving accident. Princess Diana touched our lives once again in her trade mark real way.



Web Sites to see:

Dirck Halsteads

Photographers Protest the French Polices Treatment of Photographers

The last pictures of Diana from the Paris Ritz Security Cameras