Ex-Pap Says the Celeb Photo Industry Is 'Out of Control'

Racing down Hollywood Boulevard and speeding the wrong way on a Los Angeles street to chase down a photo of Britney Spears isn't a job for just anyone.

Nick Stern quit as a member of the Spears paparazzi pack and resigned from the British-owned, Los Angeles-based photo agency Splash, claiming the celeb-chasing job had become too "aggressive."

"The paps are completely out of control," Stern told the British newspaper the Guardian. "It's not unusual to have 20 or 30 cars pursuing her at any one time. It's become too acceptable to drive at 80 mph down the wrong side of the street into oncoming traffic."

"I was horrified at what goes on," Stern, 43, said. "It's so aggressive. There are fights and crashes and slashed tires. I felt I needed to say something."

Stern told the newspaper that the coverage of Spears — from streaming video of the convoy that delivered her to the UCLA Medical Center earlier this week for mental evaluation, to the photos of her shopping in drugstores — is spiraling out of control and is doomed to end in tragedy.

"Directly or indirectly, Britney is going to come to some horrific end, or a member of the public will," Stern told the Guardian. "It's not what's being done, it's the way it's being done."

His comments raised the specter of the crash that killed Princess Diana in a Paris traffic tunnel as she fled a pack of paparazzi. Her car was determined to have been traveling at 80 mph.

Calls to Stern were not returned and Splash declined to comment to ABCNEWS.com.

Paps Will Do Anything for a Slice — or Photo — of Britney

Many celebrity photo insiders told ABCNEWS.com that they agree with Stern's sentiments that coverage of Spears has gone overboard. But still they say that the paparazzi must do whatever they can to get the best shot of any celebrity — and sometimes that means being pushy.

Brandy Navarre, vice president of X17, a celebrity photo agency that employs about 60 photographers, recognizes Stern's concerns about the aggressive nature of the business and says that while she advises her employees to obey laws — particularly traffic laws — there's not much she can do when photographers are on the scene of a breaking story.

"The competition is tough," Navarre told ABCNEWS.com. "These are young guys trying to get photos and make money, and there's a lot of temptation to drive fast, or what have you."

In recent weeks, the Los Angeles Police Department has started cracking down on out-of-control paparazzi — a result, they say, of an increased number of complaints in the area. They have already booked a few photogs on suspicion of reckless driving and have detained and questioned others.

"It takes a special kind of person [to be a celebrity photographer]," said Navarre. "I would almost respect Stern for saying he's had enough of this, but on the other hand, there are 5 million other celebrities he could take pictures of, you don't have to work on Spears."

Lloyd Beiny, CEO of another celeb photo agency called World Entertainment News Network, released a statement to ABCNEWS.com regarding Stern's resignation, in which he expressed his disappointment that the industry has changed to such a degree where "untrained and unprofessional" photographers will "take unprecedented risks to get a photo, which they hope will generate huge sums of money."

"I commend [Stern] for his brave stance and hope it might signal the start of a period of restraint," Beiny said in the statement.

But Frank Griffin, partner of photo agency Bauer-Griffin, told ABCNEWS.com that he doesn't think the photographers are too aggressive — or at least no more aggressive than other reporters who cover big stories.

"How many people cover Hillary Clinton. Isn't that aggressive?" asked Griffin, who employs approximately 50 photographs worldwide.

There is a difference between being aggressive and being impolite, added Griffin.

"Aggressive is when physical force is used — and I can't think of a situation when that has happened," said Griffin. "Maybe [the photographers] use it against each other to try to get a better picture."

"[The photographers who complain] can go get a job in a bank or park cars if they don't like it," added Griffin. "They don't have to be celebrity photographers."

Griffin added that Spears doesn't make it easy to shy away from capturing her every movement — something with which X17's Navarre also agreed. Both commented on Spears' in-the-spotlight lifestyle and suggested she move elsewhere if she doesn't like the cameras.

If not, they're going to keep doing their jobs.

"Britney's been imprudent to say the least," said Griffin. "She doesn't have to come and sit on the curbside sobbing with no underwear on. She can do that inside the house."

As for being too aggressive, Navarre has similarly tough words for photogs not willing to bear the brunt of the business.

"If you're not aggressive, then you don't work as a journalist — in any form," said X17's Navarre. "You have to be aggressive or else you're not good. And that's not any different in the celebrity world."