How Princess Diana changed the way paparazzi pursue Kate Middleton

Glenn Gratton, founder of London-based paparazzi agency Matrix pictures, spoke with the Monitor about the industry's sensitivities following the death of Princess Diana amid today's royal wedding.

This July 29, 1981 file photo shows Prince Charles and his bride Princess Diana as they wave from a balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day in London.
Dave Thompson/AP
Kate Middleton and Prince William sing hymns during their wedding service at Westminster Abbey, in London, on April 29.

Glenn Gratton is bicycling frantically around London today, chasing down Kate Middleton and the crew during the royal wedding ceremonies.

The founder of London-based paparazzi agency Matrix pictures, which had photographers stationed at eight points along the route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, has been snapping celebrities – including the royals – for more than two decades.

For newly wed Ms. Middleton, this is just the beginning of a long relationship, but one that will be heavily influenced by Princess Diana's experience with the paparazzi. Tougher laws against intrusive photographers followed her death in a 1997 car accident while being pursued by paparazzi.

"We don’t have our guys aggressively follow cars," says Mr. Gratton of the paparazzi's sensitivities to the way Diana died, and her sons William and Harry's ill feelings toward the cameras.

"We are sensitive to that. I mean, not only because of what happened, but because there might be kids there, and we don’t want to be held responsible for any harm coming to anyone. And we understand the princess would be wary of us. You would be, too. But they are never rude or horrible," he adds.

Even in the years before saying "I do" today to Prince William and becoming the Duchess of Cambridge, Middleton has battled the paparazzi's attempts to cash in on her popularity, suing and winning damages for photographs that breached privacy.

The Monitor talked with Gratton ahead of today's wedding:

How do you think Kate will turn out? Will she be an icon like Diana?

Kate will be good, and some photos of her are already getting serious money – the first shots of her coming out of a visit to the abbey, after they had announced the engagement, were worth 50,000-60,000 pounds [$83,000-$100,000]. It was an exclusive picture.

Kate will always live in the shadow of Princess Di, and she has a lot of growing up to do. But she will be a good story. Especially when she gets pregnant – then there will be a media frenzy. People love losing- and gaining-weight photos.

How does taking photos of the royals differ from snapping photos of any other celebrities?

There are a lot of celebrities who actually need publicity to keep up an image, especially the reality TV stars. The royals are not like that – and they also have more protection and security to help push us back.

What royals are of the most interest?

William and Harry, of course. That is where it’s at, and it has been a long game of cat and mouse with them. They want to live their lives and not get caught. We want to catch them. Preferably doing something a little naughty, because that’s what sells. If you have Princess Anne, she won't get as much of a hassle from us.

Are the princes always trying to duck you?

William is a bit older and he is OK with us. Sometimes we get invited into clubs for charity events and they pose. Harry on other hand a young man enjoying himself. If he wants to drink too much and be a little bit wild, he doesn’t want a photographer there.

How do you know where they are?

Our office is staffed 24 hours a day – even on Christmas – and we have a variety of sources of info and people who tip us off.

In general, we like to keep a distance and not be part of a pack but try and get exclusives. The public is interested in what celebs do in day-to-day life and we use long lenses a lot. But again, this is harder with the royals because once they are on those royal estates, it is hard to get them.

Is it even possible to get any original photos this week with so many regular media outlets following the story and everything so choreographed?

It is more of a news event than something for the paps, but we have foreign agents who are hungry for anything, so we are insanely busy. There will be celebrities at the wedding shots, and of course there is the kiss. We also have guys at the airports just in case, to try and catch them as they head off to honeymoon, although they will probably go private.

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