Photographer James White talks about shooting the movie star for her pictorial in EW

By Mark Harris
October 07, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Happy as we would be to use this page of text to discuss some of the fascinating issues raised by the subject of celebrity photography — the complicity of the spectator as a participant in the voyeuristic gaze of the lens, the complicity of the celebrity herself, the notion of whether a glimpse of said celebrity caught unawares and then frozen in time is somehow more ”real” than a posed photo shoot, the fact that these days, even the faux-incognito look of pulled-back-hair-baseball-cap-and-workout-clothes-on-the-way-from-the-gym is as carefully styled and calibrated as any appearance on the red carpet — it is our duty as journalists to put all that aside for now and begin this story by asking: What are you doing here? Seriously. What are you doing here? Our photographer, James White, has taken more than a dozen pages of pictures of Cameron Diaz, one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. On the last of those pages, you can see her in a very flimsy bathing suit, the upper portion of which remains attached to her only by an act of wavering willpower. And you’re reading? Please. Go ahead. Flip forward and look at the pictures. We’ll wait.

No, really. We’ll be right here. Go.

You’re back? Good. We hope our mirrors-within-mirrors joke gets a smile out of you: a celebrity who has been famously dogged by paparazzi agreeing to collaborate with a non-paparazzo photographer in re-creating that long-lens, slightly blank-faced, ”I’m just trying to have a vacation and be naked at the same time” look that has launched a thousand tabloids. We’ve all looked at those pictures, in the checkout aisle, on the Internet: the middle-aged leading man cavorting in the surf, a surprisingly frail, human amalgam of blob and paunch and uncertain hairline. The gorgeous young actress on the hotel balcony suddenly looking a little less sculpted than we’d imagined. The young, thought-to-be-Apollonian heartthrob on the nude beach peeling down and, to paraphrase David Niven, showing the whole world his shortcomings. They’re pictures that shouldn’t be taken. They’re pictures that we wouldn’t want taken of us. They’re pictures that we can’t resist because they seem to capture larger-than-life people at moments when they’re simply life-size (and occasionally even smaller), and that somehow decodes them for us.

”It felt really creepy,” James White says about his experience taking those long-lens pictures of Diaz, probably the most challenging part of a two-day shoot that pays tribute in many different forms to the complex relationship between celebrity and shooter. We sympathize: No reputable photographer wants to walk in the shoes of what White calls ”bad elements in the profession.” And Diaz, who is nothing if not an extraordinarily good sport, also takes pains to point out the distinction between ”paparazzo” and ”photographer.” ”Those guys who you see on the red carpet are all credentialed photographers, and I feel really bad for them, because they’re the guys that they always show in those paparazzi things on E!, and they’re totally nice and respectable. It’s very different than the guys who track and stalk people all day long. Those guys are paparazzi.” It’s a distinction worth remembering — something to think about the next time you see Diaz walk the red carpet, an occasion that’s likely to coincide with this week’s opening of her new movie In Her Shoes, the Curtis Hanson-helmed comedy-drama about the struggle between two sisters. In the movie, Diaz plays the ”pretty” sister, a young woman who is both misjudged because of her sexual allure (yeah, we know, boo-hoo, right?) and not above using it to get what — and who — she wants.

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