NoW:fake or paparazzi pictures?
The complex relationship between celebrities, the paparazzi and the press took another turn this week with the publication of a set of intimate photographs of pop star Robbie Williams and model Rachel Hunter.
The pictures of "Robbie & Rachel’s naked sex romp" were splashed across five pages of the News of the World.
The copy attached to the pictures said they were taken in the grounds of a small secluded Los Angeles hotel. And that during the intimate, and often, naked photo session, the pair became aware of the photographer.
But the suspicion is that they were taken in the grounds of Williams’s LA mansion and that, far from being the work of paparazzi, they were taken with the full knowledge and assistance of the pop star.
Sunday People editor Neil Wallis said there was no way they could have been taken without the permission of the two stars.
And he said NoW editor Rebekah Wade must have known they were not paparazzi pictures. "I don’t think for a second the NoW were duped. Rebekah is a very sensible and a clever woman," he said.
NoW managing editor Stuart Kuttner would not comment on the source of the pictures but he did point out that the paper had scored "two old fashioned scoops" in Sunday’s edition – the Williams-Hunter pictures and the "Stephen Byers love cheat" story.
He added: "We fully understand the envy and disappointment of our low-circulation, would-be rivals. But we do not wish to intrude upon their grief."
If the shots had been real paparazzi work, Wade could have been expecting trouble from the Press Complaints Commission. There has been no complaint made by the stars and Heat magazine was this week negotiating to buy the second rights to the pictures.
The photographs, which had no byline, came from the Idols picture agency, a celebrity agency that never deals in paparazzi pictures.
But a senior editorial source involved in buying the pictures said: "At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how the pictures came about. The fact is, they’re a great set of snaps that any editor would want to use."
Wallis agreed, saying he would have used the pictures in an instant. He said the only question was "why on earth Robbie and Rachel agreed to do it. They must be desperate for publicity."
But the photographs raise serious questions about the media’s relationship with celebrities. If either Williams or Hunter decide to complaining about press intrusion into their lives at any time in the future, their possible complicity in these photographs is bound to be raised.
"This is a classic example of celebrities using the media when it suits them," said Wallis.
"How Robbie and Rachel could ever complain about the press ever again is beyond me."
A spokeswoman for William’s record label, EMI Chrysalis, declined to comment on the matter.
By Martin McNamara