”We’re never going to get into the business of the long lens, hiding in the bushes, hunting people down. Our business is based around relationships with celebrities and publicists and publications. The way we shoot is we’re invited. Paparazzi business is getting more play, but that’s also a very cyclical business.” Mark Kuschner, Getty’s global VP of entertainment _In Variety Magazine, July 6, 2007_

Less than two years after making that statement, Getty is going all out Paparazzi. Through a back-door, unannounced deal, the mega million photo agency has partnered with newer “all paparazzi all the time” photo agency BuzzFoto. Here’s how it goes. Buzzfoto shoots celebrities at their worst moments, when they are unprepared and unwilling to be photographed and supllies Getty with the images to license them. In an effort to avoid being directly linked to those “dirty”  images, Getty is using its Filmagic brand, the perennial garbage brand of Mediavast.

Getty screen shot

However, the Buzzfoto images are all over the Getty site and can be found alongside photographs of events for which Getty was hired as the officials photographers. The cycle is now closed. Not only can you get images of celebrities at a party, nicely schmoozing and entertaining, but you can also get them passed out in their cars, as they attempt to get home. Publicists and celebrities will sure love that.

This has been an ongoing issue for Mediavast and Getty . As the celebrity market shifted its demand from party pictures to “candids”, the prices have followed. Red carpet images space rates are now at almost a quarter of what they were worth 4 years ago. (The irony of it all  is that Getty, along with Mediavast, is highly  responsible for this drop in price of party/red carpet images) . Paparazzi images, however, have not only gain a much wider audience, they also have been able to maintain a much higher price per image. And Getty wants a piece of that too.

But how do you combine being the official photographer for a premiere or party,  where you are hired to shoot the event and thus play along the publicists demands that all look nice, happy, and beautiful  to the needs of a marketplace that would much rather see the same group of people, drunk, sick, dirty and arrested ? Especially since you went through incredible efforts to shut out your competition from all these official events, forcing them to wait outside and thus get those unauthorized shots ?

Well, you make a deal with one of them to distribute their material. Like that, your hands remain clean while you grab a piece of the cake. Funny part is that BuzzFoto was created and is run by the same man who has already sold one agency to Getty, Online USA. Coincidence or signs of a deeper relationship ? As in, lets help this man launched his pap agency so we can later on distribute it but still pretend we have nothing to do with it ?

This distribution agreement, which has a lot of rumors flying, is a great deal for Buzzfoto. It now has a wider distribution than its main competitors, X17, Splashnews, Bauer- Griffin or INF with minimum effort and no investments. Hopefully the terms of the deals were not too bad. The question remains, will they also soon see images sold for less than a dollar to those mysterious “premium subscribers” ? Will it too join the ranks of disgruntled photographers and agencies who are currently suing the mega whale for breach of contract ?

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