Paparazzi Speak on Meghan and Harry’s Car Chase

Complicated dynamics between celebrities and the paparazzi contributed to the confusion around a recent incident in New York City.
Friday - 19/05/2023 23:15 Author: Editors Desk Source: N.Y Times
Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images
Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

“It’s a messed-up business,” said Roger Wong, a freelance photographer, who on Thursday evening was among a few dozen others waiting on a red carpet outside the Hard Rock Hotel, near Times Square. He was hoping to get a sellable shot of Martha Stewart, one of this year’s cover models for Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. “But what am I going to do? Start flipping burgers? I’d probably make more money, but it’s not my thing.”

At the issue’s launch party, the photographers chatted and took pictures of other attendees who also included Megan Fox and Kim Petras. But they were still reeling from the event that took place two nights before, at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, where Meghan Markle was being honored at the annual Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards.

Upon leaving the gala, Prince Harry, Meghan and her mother, Doria Ragland, were involved in what a representative for the couple described as a “near catastrophic car chase” as a result of a frenzied pursuit by paparazzi.

After word of the ordeal ricocheted around the world from a city not especially known for the kind of operatic paparazzi chases that are commonplace in Los Angeles and Europe, several of the photographers were of the strong opinion that the chase had been manufactured or overhyped. Of the nearly dozen The New York Times spoke to, a few said they were at the event. One said he chased the royal couple, but would give details only for money.

A throng of photographers taking photos of a woman whose back is turned to the photo wearing a light pink jacket.
Photographers outside a Calvin Klein runway show in New York.Credit...Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times

The first reports largely repeated the claims made by the couple’s representative, as well as comments made by a member of the security detail to CNN that the chase could have been fatal. But as more details emerged, from the accounts of the police and a taxi driver who was briefly involved, the facts began to diverge from their account.

In a text message, Tina Brown, the author of two books on the royals, said the whole story “sounds mildly preposterous.”

But that came after claims from the royals’ representative that they had been involved in a dramatic chase that lasted for two hours. Mayor Eric Adams condemned what had occurred as “reckless and irresponsible,” only to add that he was slightly flummoxed by the idea of a two-hour high-speed car chase in Midtown Manhattan.

And indeed, the police subsequently concluded that the incident warranted “no further investigation.”

Mr. Wong noted that earlier on Tuesday, a lawyer for Prince Harry had appeared in court in London, challenging a government decision not to allow him to pay for police protection during visits home. The timing, Mr. Wong said, was awfully convenient.

Even a person who had previously worked with the royals on their public relations strategy said it strained logic that the couple’s driver had not simply pulled into a garage at one of the many hotels celebrities frequently use to ward off pursuing photographers. The couple’s decision to stay with a friend at an undisclosed location rather than at a secure hotel was ridiculed in Page Six.

In an interview with The Times on Friday, the representative for the couple, Ashley Hansen, said: “Respectfully, considering the duke’s family history, one would have to think nothing of the couple or anybody associated with them to believe this was any sort of P.R. stunt. Quite frankly, I think that’s abhorrent.”

But for the rotating cast of characters who make their livings photographing the comings and goings of celebrities, the story from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was in some way bound to be treated with suspicion.

Photographers at the back of an event try to capture the goings-on toward the front.
Getting shots of celebrities in “real life” situations tends to be more lucrative, but the days of $100,000 jackpots are largely over, several photographers said.Credit...Sinna Nasseri for The New York Times

One reason for that, said Steve Eichner, 58, an event photographer who has worked for Vogue, WWD and Variety, is that the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1998 in Paris while being pursued by photographers calcified public stereotypes about people in the profession.

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