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Local lensmen's paparazzi pretensions are just affectations, critics say

Very few photos of leading actress Angelina Jolie and Pax Thien were taken due to her bodyguards' strict protection

It is a freelance profession yet to come into its own in Vietnam, but it appears that there is no dearth of aspiring paparazzi dreaming of taking that one picture that will catapult them into fame and riches.

There are any number of amateur and professional photographers clicking away at events where local celebrities gather, hoping to capture indiscretions of any sort, wardrobe malfunctions to an unwitting show of undergarments included.

Local papers and commentators have at times dubbed these the work of home-grown paparazzi, but general indications are that the nomenclature is off the mark. For one, they hardly earn anything monetarily from such exposures, except some notoriety or fame as the case may be.

Hoai Son, photographer for and, said some photojournalists in Vietnam are able to sell their photos to foreign press agencies and earn good money.

"There are embryonic signs of the paparazzi, but these are very few. The most legendary tale spreading through our midst is about one who earned nearly US$15,000 for snapping former British pop star and convicted pedophile Garry Glitter (as he was being taken from Binh Thuan province to the Tan Son Nhat airport for being deported after serving time in prison). I think it (the paparazzi profession) will take a very long time to develop" said Son.

Tuan Nghia, photojournalist with Thanh Nien, pooh-poohs the $15,000 bonanza story as wishful thinking.

"Foreign press agencies have a definite norm for photo payments, so it is highly unlikely they pay tens of thousands of dollars for one photo," said Nghia.

Nghia also agreed that although there are no real paparazzi in Vietnam, there are people who use their skills to do the normal job of exposing corruption, smuggling and other crimes.

He said attempts to emulate international paparazzi sometimes gets local photographers into trouble.

"It's not as bad as the guys who indirectly caused the death of Princess Diana, but these guys (local photographers) still get in trouble with the celebrities' security personnel," said Nghia.

"When Angelia Jolie came to Vietnam in 2007 to adopt Pax Thien, her bodyguards were very strict with their protective measures. Some local paparazzi rushed headlong into the guards and even threw a helmet to stop the actress's car. It was very dangerous."

Nghia achieved some fame in local press circles when his photo of Angie and Pax, after waiting for a long time in the "right spot," was bought by a foreign news agency.

Another of Nghia's scoops involved his hiding in a restroom as security cleared the area where

When Korean superstar Lee Young Ae paid a charity visit to a local orphanage in 2009, she was followed step by step by local photographers

Korean superstar actress Lee Young Ae was due to pay a charity visit to a local orphanage in 2009. When she showed up, Pham came out of the restroom and got a good shot of the celebrity.

Although many local photojournalists feel the life of paparazzi has its interesting moments, they are not interested in it as a vocation.

"Many reasons prevent someone from becoming a paparazzi. They should not only be good photographers with very good equipment but also good planners and risk-takers," Hoai Son told Thanh Nien.

"Moreover, you should weigh the pros and cons when taking and revealing someone's photos, because they could affect that person's life and work. I choose the safe way and am satisfied with my job in taking fashion, entertainment events and daily life photos."

Dime a dozen

The large number of "hot" photographs coming to light have generated a misunderstanding among many people in Vietnam that these are the work of local paparazzi, but most of these are harmless photos of celebrities behind the scenes.

Ngoc Truc, a business student, said that celebrities know that they are on camera a lot of the time, and are careful about any untoward behavior or do things they want captured.

"It is ridiculous that some local photographers think they are paparazzi because they take funny or natural pictures of stars backstage or elsewhere," said Truc.

There are times when paparazzi-like exposures hit local media, like the clips posted on that caught model Ngoc Quyen highly inebriated with a foreign man or Miss Vietnam 2008 Thuy Dung going out with a man rumored to be Miss Vietnam 2006 Mai Phuong Thuy's boyfriend.

Me Thuan, freelance photographer whose work is often featured in Tuoi Tre newspaper, said it is a mistake to consider some local photographers' photos of a celebrity's body the work of paparazzi.

He said blogs and some websites have proven fertile land for these "exposures" of a celeb's cleavage or undergaments taken by those deliberately standing below the stage where female artists are performing in short skirts.

There are two bottom lines to this story. One is that these wannabe paparazzi make no real money. And the second is that local celebrities themselves are not fazed by the "exposures."

Tang Thanh Ha, Mai Phuong Thuy, or Dam Vinh Hung all of them have said that there is nothing to be afraid of. Tongue firmly within their cheek, they have welcomed the "exposures" as giving them free publicity.

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