When celebrities and paparazzi collide, the resulting picture is not always a pretty one. Hardened shutterbugs battle throngs of fellow photographers in the hunt for the next big money shot. It's an arena that can be downright ugly, nasty and even dangerous.
You'd certainly never expect to find two wide-eyed 15-year-olds in the middle of the mayhem, but young photographers Austin Visschedyk and Blaine Hewison have been making a name for themselves as paparazzi … and not always a good one.
"I took a picture of Adam Sandler, exclusive," Blaine recalled. "And he came up to me and said, 'So you're gonna be a dick.'"
"He was being really rude," Austin added.
Were they invading Sandler's privacy? Blaine doesn't think so.
"If you're a celebrity, you've gotta know that there's gonna be paparazzi," Blaine said. "It's a choice you make. If you don't want it, you can end it."
These longtime best friends have gotten used to the chaos that comes along with life as a paparazzo. Over the past year, they've become fixtures in L.A.'s sometimes rough-and-tumble paparazzi scene. This offbeat career path may seem strange to some, but not to Blaine or Austin.
"We've lived in Hollywood all our lives," Austin said. "And it was just kind of like, yeah, you go to a restaurant and you see a celebrity … and you think after a while, we can start taking pictures of these people and actually make some money."
Blaine convinced his father to invest in a camera, and he and Austin got to work. "We started to, you know, get out there and be known a lot more, get business cards made, start to network with the people around us and where we live," Blaine said.
Jane Seiberts, Austin's mother, realizes that most parents don't dream of having their child become a paparazzo. "We'd obviously heard all the things that everybody else hears about the paparazzi," Seiberts said. "I mean there was a part of me like, are you sure you want to do this. … It's a little scary."
Blaine's dad, Rob Hewison, also had reservations. "It made me a little nervous in the beginning because of the stigma that's, you know, with the paparazzi word," Hewison said. "When they started, I wanted to make sure that they were supervised and that it wasn't a world that was gonna be scary."
Their parents say the young photo hunters never go on a celebrity safari without an adult along, but even with supervision, Austin is sometimes presented with some risky situations, such as those infamous celebrity car chases.
"If Britney goes through a yellow light, the 20 paparazzi have to, behind her, have to go through the red," Austin said.
Sounds unsafe, but Austin says those chases are actually safer than they may appear. "If everybody goes through the red light, it's like a chain … and nobody deliberately is gonna drive their car into another chain of cars."
Luckily for their own and other people's safety, Austin and Blaine are not old enough to drive, and Blaine's father forbids participating in those chases. Still, there can be other dangers. Recently, Blaine was violently shoved.
"Believe it or not, it wasn't a paparazzi," Rob Hewison said. "It was a doorman from a five-star restaurant. So that was quite a shock to me." Criminal charges were brought against the doorman, who claims that the shove was an accident.
Does Hewison regret sending Blaine into such risky territory?