The paparazzo has just parked a black BMW sedan in the middle of Otsego Street in North Hollywood. He hops out to get a quick photo when Britney Spears enters her favorite dance studio.
Then two police cruisers pull up. As a stern-looking LAPD officer writes a $50 parking ticket, the blonde British photographer's colleagues and competitors are playfully snapping away. At him.
"Over the shoulder!" JFX Direct shooter Ulises Rios calls out. Brewer obliges with a red carpet-style turn. He smiles and pulls a hood up coyly to his face.
Newcomer Hollywood.tv is making waves with a splashy Lambroghini-driving founder and brand-building business plan. One of the most well-known agencies, X17, faces questions about its aggressive tactics.
Then there is the curious case of Adnan Ghalib, who works for Brewer's agency Finalpixx. After chasing Spears with the rest of the Brit Pack, he switched to the other side of the lens and dated her for months.
(Their current relationship status is unclear. "Everyone thought at first that it was a setup, but he really cares about her," JFX co-founder Arnold Cousart said of Ghalib, a competitor and friend.)
Plenty of people have been riding "the Britney wave," in the words of Hollywood.tv founder Sheeraz Hasan. ("It's been a big blessing," he said.) Despite her appearance on "How I Met Your Mother" and release of a new music video, her most-viewed online videos remain shaky street footage that often features as much of the swarming photographers as it does of Spears.
I'm A Crave For You
2There's still good money in it. One agency leader said two of his paparazzi made $100,000 each last year, solely through sales of Spears photos.
Though paparazzi are disparaged by mainstream media, discouraged by the cops and despised by the same public that consumes their product, there's at least one person who may not want to see them go away: Spears herself.
The fallen pop star knows some paparazzi by name, and occasionally sends shout-outs to specific agencies. They are part of her everyday life and, strangely, part of her social circle.
Their images captured her spectacular freefall: The no-underwear car exit, the umbrella attack, the head shaving, the hospital gurney ride (posted on JFX paparazzo Galo Ramirez's MySpace page with the caption "cha-ching! cha-ching!!").
Lately, they've shown the beats of her recovery: Shopping for jeans, teaching kids at Millennium Dance Complex, scoping out designer gown shop Monique Lhuillier on Melrose Place.
And here's how the Brit Pack knew she was headed all these places: They never stopped following her. Most paparazzi, in Los Angeles and worldwide, zero in on celeb whereabouts by cruising the streets, soliciting tips from valet parkers and waiters, or camping outside a trendy restaurant or nightclub.
The approach to Spears is different.
At least four of the celebrity photo and video agencies, JFX, X17, Hollywood.tv, and Finalpixx, have for at least six months directed their shooters to park along scenic Mulholland Drive and wait for her to leave her home in a hilltop gated community called The Summit. It's a tactic called "doorstepping," taken to 24/7 extremes for Spears.
They leave engines running for hours on end, ready to give chase if Spears' vehicle is spotted heading down the curvy roads into Beverly Hills or the San Fernando Valley. The men inside stare blankly into rear-view mirrors, ready for pursuit.