HBO’s summer documentary series features some exciting films including one that is both particularly entertaining and illuminating in terms of celebrity culture. Smash His Camera surveys the career of the “paparazzi superstar” Ron Galella with particular attention to the legal actions related to his pursuit of photos of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The photos, of course, are incredible in terms how they engage the viewer in this narrative and convey a sense of Galella’s work over time but equally effective are archival interviews with Galella and his subjects and news coverage of his work and his legal entanglements.
Lots of documentation in different forms here, and director Leon Gast weaves the archival elements beautifully with sequences following Galella as he continues his work, shows off the basement archive with literally millions of photographs taken over his career, and reveals bits of his domestic life with his wife in their New Jersey home. As several interviewees note, Galella maintains his sense of humor and a lack of cynicism that separates him from many other celebrity photographers who are motivated solely by the buck.