Thursday, June 18, 2009

Princess Diana, Press and paparazzi


Diana was the first Princess of Wales in a long time, and she became a powerful national symbol in the United Kingdom. As John Taylor (2000) characterizes her, “She had personal qualities that appealed very broadly, but she was more than a celebrity.” Public reaction to her unexpected death in 1997 was clearly something more than adulation for a popular public figure. The New York Times (September 5, 1997) wrote that not since Britain’s victory in the Second World War had such powerful emotion swept London, the capital. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister (1997), said the public had an almost religious reverence because she “symbolized something about humanity and the way we would like to be.”

Diana was a condensed symbol of love, divorce, fragmented families, stardom and failure, beauty and eating disorders, also of marginalized groups like AIDS, leprosy, and landmine victims. In addition, she had the charisma that only certain royal have an undoubted regality that sets apart, along with the ability to connect with ordinary people through touch and look. (Walter, p.17)

During the massive public grief and since then, the public intensely criticized both the monarchy and the press. There are certain reasons why the public would condemn these two insitutions in the unexpected death of the Princess of Wales

National and personal identity

Obviously, the Queen and the Prince had no intention to kill Diana. However, two factors had formed public opinion that they were hostile to her. First factor is the Diana‘s active role in transvaluation of national values. Second is the image of the Princess framed by the media.

The marriage of Lady Diana Spenser to Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981, and Diana’s funeral, in 1997, defined a period during which British values shifted or transformed themselves. The marriage betokened long-established moderate Protestant and secular values that centered on household and that required the sacrifice of private interest for public good. The funeral is the most notable and truly extraordinary British event of the decade, which showed that British values now sanction self-interested and autonomous individuals.

Britain forged a very strong community with secular values of sacrifice for the public good. Margaret Thatcher broke this postwar consensus when she became a Prime Minister in 1979. Primarily, she intended only to unleash economic self-interest and to crush socialism, not to make changes in British values of family and household. But autonomous individuals, each of, whom claimed a right to seek personal profit, benefit, or advantage, reconstructed moderate Protestant and secular values. For instance, women, people of color, and male homosexuals were among those whom previous British values had marginalized and oppressed. So they claimed their rights to self-interest and individual autonomy during the Thatcher’s years. Diana was a vivid example for them because she was an individual who had a love-and-hate relationship with the old system of values.

According to German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies in the nineteenth century, there are two types of social values: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. He meant by Gemeinschaft “a social relationship between individuals based on affection, kinship, or membership of a community, as within a family or group of friends.” He meant by Gesellschaft “ a social relationship between individuals based on duty to society or to an organization (Taylor, p.7).” Those two parameters present in any society and no more than preponderance or imbalance of one or other.

In a case of Diana, her marriage was a celebration of Gemeinschaft values because monarchy as family meant monarchy as household. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was a major diminution of Gemeinschaft values. Diana’s later assertion of self-interest made her a symbol of change in the status of women. Finally, Diana’s funeral was a signal that the balance of British values had decisively shifted to the side of Gesellschaft.

The press coverage of Diana showed the analogy between her life and fairy tales. Although she came from a noble family, she often had been depicted as a Cinderella by the press. Her funeral has been showed in a parallel with the tale Snow White. Many journalists used the fairy-tale parallel when writing about her marriage. For example, Journalist Diane Clehane (1998) thought the fairy tale symbolism was mirrored by Diana’s clothes: something new (silk from Lulingstone, the only silk farm in England), something old (diamond drop earnings of her mother), something borrowed (tiara from Spencer family), and something blue (bow adorned her waist). Further, the press brought many times the subject of Diana’s clothes onto the arena of public discussion.

Like a good fairy tale, the Princess was not only young and beautiful but also winsome and sweet and good and kind. In a word, she was a champion of the oppressed and common people. Diana associated with underdogs who loved her, but the royal family was jealous of her. Fairy tales often portray active older women as evil. So the press, particularly tabloids, transformed Queen Elizabeth II into a wicked stepmother after Diana’s death. Readers imagined that wicked Queen Elizabeth pursued Diana and, in fear for her life, Diana ran away. The handsome Prince, claim the tabloids, did not save her. In contrast, the Prince was weak, indifferent, and mostly absent.

The tabloid coverage about Diana’s life was factually implausible, but the factual errors were only half the faults. The tabloid authors depicted Diana as passive, victimized, but also the good woman. This way they reinforced Gemeinschaft values. They did not recognize Diana as a symbol of a new transvalued gender role. Even a year after her death the tabloid newspapers are using her ambiguous phrase “The palace is out to get me!” In addition, they had supplied the details said by Morton Andrew, the Diana’s own-chosen biographer. Morton said, “Diana fully expected a murder attempt. At the very least, she thought she’d be committed to a mental institution (Freilich, 1998).”

In reality, Diana symbolized the new balance of values. The views in the tabloids were old-fashioned because of changes in British values. Diana’s example led women away from Cinderella or Snow White and away from the damaged female identity in those and other classic fairy tales. She led nation away from a narrow conception of liberty that denied people of color and homosexuals their rights.

Relationship between Diana and the Press

Researchers Billig (1992) and Watson (1997) strongly concluded about the relationship between Diana and the Press. They pointed out that nor does the argument stand up that Diana was simply a creation of the media, like Hollywood stars and soap opera characters. Diana’s royal status existed prior to her ‘Hollywoodization,’ and indeed without this status she would never have entered the world of stardom. Media commentator Merrin (1999) said the same thesis: Diana was herself no more than a media image, and the mourning and the funeral were likewise no more than a media event. Walter (1999) wrote that in adding charisma and media-nouce to a public office that existed independent of the media, Diana was more like John F. Kennedy than the stars of cinema and television that are nothing without these media.

The pictures evidently showed that before the separation from Prince Charles in 1992 she was shy in front of the camera. The pictures of her after 1992 showed her as an active and stylish woman. Why there were such changes? First, a little biography.

Diana was born on July 1, 1961, at Park House, Sandrinham, in the English County of Norfolk. Diana’s father, Edward John Spencer, Viscount Anthrop with his family rented the house from the Queen. Diana was her parents’ third child, and her birth disappointed them because they hoped for a son. Later, they had a son, Charles, in 1964. In turn, Diana resented bitterly both her parents’ hope she had been a boy and their subsequent divorce. She was a childhood playmate of royal Princess, especially the present Duke of York and his brother, Prince Edward. She had a fine education, including boarding schools in England and Monteux, on Lake Geneva, in Switzerland. She never attended university. It was a point that her opponents later used to taunt her. Her contacts with royal family, and especially with Prince Charles, determined the course of her life.

On February 24, 1981, Prince Charles and Diana announced their engagement, and on July 29, 1981, they were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched the ceremony on television. Prince William, their first son, was born on June 21, 1982, and Prince Henry, the second son, on September 15, 1984. Diana was unhappy in the marriage, however, because her husband carried on his old relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. As a result, Diana suffered various emotional illnesses. Appealing to the public, she allowed Andrew Morton, a journalist, to write out her troubles in a book, including her fear at one stage that the royal family would have her judged insane. Spokesman for the royal family taunted her in public. “Princess Diana could never have won a university place, but she won a prince and failed to keep him. She addicted to the limelight her marriage brought her. It’s like a drug.”

Diana and Charles made a formal separation in 1992, but both maintained a façade of cooperation in order to raise jointly their two sons. They divorced on August 28, 1996, and Charles gave Diana a substantial financial payment. After the separation and the divorce, Diana remained astonishingly popular. Millions adored her, and she used her popularity to assist many charities, especially those for sick children, battered women, land-mine victims, and AIDS patients. She was the most famous and most photographed woman in the twentieth century. Journalists hounded her, especially the freelance photographers known as paparazzi. Diana died on August 31, 1997, in Paris in an auto wreck. Her lover, Dodi Al Fayed, and the driver, Henri Paul, died in the same wreck. Diana’s and Dodi’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was seriously injured but survived.

Applying to personal identity theory, Taylor interpreted Diana’s identity crisis, which happened, twice in her life (p.36). Diana had a crisis when she failed her exams at school and could not get into university. She had eating disorders then. Denied intellectual status and university place, Diana decided she had to marry a notable man. Morton revealed that Diana pushed to marry to the Prince of Wales, not he to marry her. So the marriage to Prince Charles was a result of Diana’s young adult identity crisis, not its cause. She wished to play an independent and important role, equal to her talants, but royal marriage did not supply her opportunities, she thought. Diana had another crisis of identity diffusion under the stress of her marriage. Having heavy duties as Princess of Wales, she had sought refuge in pregnancy despite Prince Charles wanted to wait three years before having children so that the marriage would grow and be solid. Having children could not help her to escape the pressures of official life.

She consulted with psychotherapist Susie Orbach who opposed monarchy and supported British republic. Orbach’s view deeply influenced Diana. Orbach recommended that Diana assert self-interest as the cure for psychological and physical problems. Diana did turn from naïve confusion to a bold and mature assertion of self-interest. She was confused just before and after the separation. She acted decisively in making any revelations to Morton at all because she had broken palace tradition and angered her husband and the Queen. (She had a lover James Hewitt, an army officer). Her clear goal was to earn the public’s whole sympathy, and she never lost it. She was much more skillful in the context of obtaining a divorce settlement of thirty million dollars.

According to old court traditions, royal men were allowed adultery, but women were not. Courtiers maintain the connection between the royal court and outside world. They control the monarchy’s publicity or public relations. Hostile to Sarah, the Duches of York, they used their public relations power and deliberately exposed her adultery to press photographers and to her husband. As a result Sarah’s connection to the royal family was destroyed. Diana realized that what courtiers had done to Sarah they could do to her. Courtiers required her to sacrifice private will and to maintain the public image of the monarchy.

Hollywood public relations specialist Michael Levine (1998) wrote that Diana managed one brilliant public relations coup after another so called a ‘package’ of public relations products. She avowed her behavior and at the same time emphasized her children and her important charity work. This skill was native to her. During the television news show Panorama on BBC, she told to news analyst Martin Bashir about her complications and fears that the palace would pronounce her mad or incompetent and deprive her status and access to her sons. That interview was a turning point that led to divorce on terms favorable to the Princess. Far from being mad, Diana became candid and competent. Benefiting from Orbach’s theraphy, Diana transcended her mother’s model. Accused of adultery, her mother had been unable to assert her rights. Unlike her mother, Diana was able to retain custody of her children. She also transcended the example of Sarah, Duches of York, who got a very small settlement from the Duke of York. She received 1.4 million pound sterling in trust for her two daughters and 600, 000 pound sterling for herself and was reduced to doing cranberry juice and Weight Watcher commercial advertisements. She had to give up her royal title. Diana, on the other hand, obtained nearly thirty million dollars from the Prince.

However, Queen Elizabeth II ordered that Diana’s name not to be mentioned in the Queen’s presence again, and her majesty deprived the Princess of the title “Her Royal Highness.” The Queen did allow aircraft to fetch Diana’s body back to Britain, but she did it with very great reluctance.

Childhood friends, Sarah and Diana defied court etiquette together. Press photographs showed them laughing at royal functions and poking people with umbrellas. To allow herself a royal public role as a divorced woman and confessed adulteress, to allow herself, that is, to assert her self-interest, Diana had to break the royal family’s long tradition. Her actions coincided with the shift to a new equilibrium of British values, an equilibrium of which she became the symbol. As Lady Colin Campbell (1997) noted, Diana was not intellectual, but she was intelligent. So she did know how to use media to create a public adoration for her. Diana understood that the British, and specially the English, have always used discussion of monarchy as sort of national shorthand for discussions of moral rules, identity, and national direction.

Diana perfected consumer culture because she displayed magnificent patterns of consumption. Also, she made few references to high culture but many to the consumer culture. Diana’s interaction with consumer image made her resemble pop artists such as Andy Warhol. Pop art was a movement of the 1950s that constructed a middle ground between high art and low art. According to Taylor, high art is of exalted quality or style, lofty, elevated, or superior. Low art means advertising or ordinary media. In other words, pop art is both a movement of ideas and a clearly defined subsection in a larger, inchoate consumer culture.


At the Diana’s funeral, her brother Earl Spencer spoke against media. On the other hand, critics have suggested that ‘the people’ were crudely manipulated by the media, notably by television and the tabloids. The tabloids immediately attacked for causing Diana’s death, needed to rehabilitate themselves. They did this in a number of ways. First, they ran the story that the driver was drunk, thus absolving the paparazzi of significant responsibility. Second, as the week progressed, main news story not Princess’s death but the public responses to her death, which was thereby amplified as more and more people decided to join in the mourning portrayed in the media pictures that saturated the week. Third, this enabled the press to point the finger at the Royal Family for being out of touch with ‘the people’.

A French magistrate ruled that Henri Paul had been driving while intoxicated. However, the photographers were blamed most from the side of the public. For instance, Mohammed Al Fayed’s (Dodi’s father) attorney Georges Kiejman argued “Paul’s alcohol level does not change the problem. Certainly alcohol played a role in the sharing of responsibilities. But the initial responsibility is that of the photographers whose behavior required him to take a route that was not the normal route, at a speed that he should not have driving at. No paparazzi, no accident (Sancton and Mcleod, p.299).”

After Diana’s death, ten photographers faced the voluntary homicide charges that were dropped latter half of 1998 and several of them faced non-assistance charges (?)

Diana’s behavior and appearance were reportable and camera worthy all the times since she became the Princess of Wales. As Goldberg pointed out, the camera is a particularly exacting taskmaster of the famous (p.133).

Diana’s paparazzi phobia was getting to Dodi as well. The couple had a secret six-day vacation in July 1997 in the Mediterranean on the board of the Jonikal. When they flew back to London, Dodi dropped off Diana by helicopter at Kensington Palace. They were back on British soil before anybody knew about their trip. Anyone, that is, except for a pair of photographers named Mario Brenna and Jason Fraser. Brenna, the Italian based in Monaco, had already made a name for himself as a celebrity photographer. Fraser was the British photojournalist who brokered their publication in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. On August 1997, the Sunday Mirror put the six-by-seven inch color picture with the headline “The kiss” and the subhead “Locked in her lover’s arms, the princess finds happiness at last.” Inside of the Sunday Mirror another ten pages of photographs were published from Brenna’s shoot. Technical quality was not great, but the scoop was all that mattered. The Sunday Mirror paid 250,000 pounds for the first rights; The Sun and the Daily Mail paid 100, 000 pound sterling each for the second rights, available the next day.

It was more complicated to avoid paparazzi every day. One Greek newspaper had offered 280 million drachmas for a picture of Diana. The captain of their small cruiser would call his friends around Greece to learn the whereabouts of paparazzi, and then he would motor in the opposite direction. Once they had eluded the media, Diana said to her Rosa Monckton who had a vacation together “It’s a hunt, Rosa, it’s a hunt.“ But truth is, despite all Diana’s dramatizing about the hunt, no paparazzi ever came within miles of them (Sancton and McLeod, p.136).

Diana did not object to the photos per se -- as long as she could exert some direct or indirect control over what pictures were taken. Images of her looking tanned; healthy, relaxed, and happy did not seem to trouble her. What she detested was being constantly hunted by any job with a camera and a motorbike that fancied her as easy prey for a quick quid. Diana clearly adored the results when she agreed to photo shoots with glamour photographers like Snowden, Terrence Donovan, Patrick Demarchelier, and Maria Testino. Paparazzi were the wolf pack she hated, not pictures.

At the very last day, when they arrived at Le Bourget airport Dodi could see the paparazzi from the window and asked the Transair personnel if they could help them to avoid cameras. There was not much anyone could do about it. As soon as the door opened, the cameras started clicking. The resulting pictures along with other following photographs later became evidences for the investigation and the court process.

Not every photographer can deal with paparazzi. So who were those ten photographers hunting after the Princess Di and her lover Dodi and what they told about themselves?

Jacques L angevin, 44. He was sent to the Ritz on August 30 because he was Sygma’s duty man that weekend. He said, “ it’s not shameful to do photos of people. It is not my choice, but I do consider myself a versatile photographer.” His prize-winning work from such far-flung places as Rwanda, Lebanon, China, the Gulf War, and the Atlanta Olympics attests to his versatility. He was wounded by a bullet in the leg while covering the Romanian revolution in 1989.

Romuald Rat, 24. He is remembered as the guy who leaned into the wrecked Mercedes and put his hand on Diana’s neck to take her pulse. “Romauld is a nice guy, there is never a problem with him,” said a limousine driver who often drives stars around France. “Whenever he does a star, he will give me copies of the photos.” “He’ll come up to me and ask where we’re headed next.”

Christian Martinez, 41, is true paparazzi. He works for the Angeli agency. He is a 15-year veteran on the business. A newspaper editor who worked with him said, “Martinez is a good professional-but sometimes he tries too hard and goes too far.” A French reporter who had worked with him on numerous assignments called him “ a truculent, mean-spirited guy always ready to punch it out.” He described himself as a “ nervous guy ready to jump into action at the drop of a hat.” Martinez admitted that he had exchanged sharp words with Rat in the Alma Tunnel because Rat tried to prevent him and others from taking close-up pictures of the victims.

Serge Benhamou, 44. He works with the well-known celebrity photographer Laszlo Veres. He is less paparazzo than a groupie is. He always rides a scooter. He left the scene earlier than others because he “could not stand it.” He told police he did not want to see the pictures he had taken “because I took photos and now I know that people are dead. It is a horrible memory.”

Laszlo Veres, 50 is a native Hungarian, runs own agency specializing in celebrity and fashion photography. He came to the scene because Benhamou called him on a portable phone. When he heard about the accident he thought it was a banal fender bender. “I was amazed when I saw the car. I took a few photos of the overall scene from about thirty meters away.” Some years ago, Alain Delon’s car collided with him during an abortive chase. “He is wily, gruff, ans secretive, but basically a good egg,” said an American celebrity journalist.

Serge Arnal, 35, is celebrity specialist, too. “Our photographer was only a ‘people’ photographer, who usually does festivals and parties,” said his boss Bruno Calin, head of the Stills agency. Pursuing Di and Dodi in his black Fiat Uno, with Martinez at his side, Arnal lost sight of the Mercedes. Several minutes later, he came upon the wreck. He parked his car 30 meters down the road. Martinez jumped out and hurried towards the wreck. Arnal, who was afraid of blood, hung back. He dialed 112 emergency number. He was only photographer to make this effort.

Fabrice Chassery, 30, and David Oderkerken, 26. They work for an authentic paparazzo agency, LS Presse. They took several rolls of film and left just at the moment when police started pushing photographers back. They drove directly to the office of Laurent Sola, the head of the agency, and dropped film off for processing. Sola had developed pictures immediately and selected five photographs of Diana being treated by medics. The pictures were transmitted by computer to his agent in London. Orders from Britain, Spain, Italy, and Germany totaled more than a million pound sterling. Then at 5:44 a.m. Agence France-Presse, the French National wire service ran its first dispatch on Diana’s death. Oderkerken and Chassery immediately phoned Sola and asked not to sell the pictures.

Lionel Cherruault, 37. He is a London based french photographer from Sipa. In order to track down copies of the accident photos that had made their way to England, British authorities sent someone to Cherruault’s apartment. The visitors took credit cards, cash and keys from Mrs. Cherruault’s purse. They also removed two external hard disk drives and a laptop computer, leaving the photographer’s negatives, papers, and other electronic gadgets untouched. Despite such extraordinary efforts, accident pictures appeared in the German tabloid Bild-Zeitung, and the Italian newsweekly Panaroma.

Nikola Arsov, 38. He was never blamed for selling Diana photos to a tabloid because he forgot to turn on his electronic flash in the heat of the action and not a single one of his pictures came out. He emigrated from Macedonia to France 20 years ago. He worked as a Sipa motorcycle driver for seven years before taking up the camera himself a year ago. “Any photographer would have done the same thing. TV cameramen would have done it if they’d been there. I’m no paparazzo. I just photographed Tony Blair. What the hell is this all about? Everything is all mixed up!” he said.

Those ten different men with different experiences in the business and representing different agencies were blamed in causing accident led to the three persons’ death: Diana, Dodi and Henri.


Relationship between a public figure/famous person and the media is complex. When their interests coincide, they have love-relationship like Diana’s interview to Martin Bashir on BBC or her specially posing pictures for the media. When they have different interests, they hate each other. In terms of paparazzi, a hate relationship might reach the highest level. On one hand, a public figure has two sides in her/his life: private and public. As far as the public life concerns, a public figure wants more publicity and allows the media to cover. Often he/she invites media people to follow his/her public appearance. However, a public figure does not want his/her private life is publicized. On the other hand, the media wants cover every step of a public figure for their audience. As a former Turkish journalist Sipahioglu said, “I am saddened, because someone we adored is dead. But when you become Lady Di, you become a public person. She was posing all the time in St. Tropez, in Bosnia. We can’t be hypocrites about this.” He added: “The only thing that might slow them down is that there are no more personalities like Lady Di.”


Campbell, C. (1998). The real Diana. New York:St Martin’s,

Clehance, D. (1998). Diana: The secrets of Her Style. New York: GT Publishing

Freilich, L. (1998, October 20) Diana’s secret fear: Palace is out to get me! They will stop at nothing. Star

Warren, H. (1997, September 5). Diana Buried as a Capital Mourns. New York Times, Midwest edition

Sancton, T. & Macleod, S. (1998.) Death of a Princess: The investigation. St. Martin’s Press

Taylor, J. (2000) Diana, Self-Interest, and British National Identity.Westport. Connecticut

Blair, T. (1997, September 26). interview by David Frost, Talkng with David Frost, Burrels Information Services. Livingston, NJ,

Walter, T. (1999). The Mourning for Diana. Oxford. New York,


April, 2001


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