F**k off and Di!

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The Independent Online
Diana, Princess of Wales (you know the one) comes out of her gym on Easter Monday. A photographer or two lie in wait, including Brendan Beirne, one of her ever-presents. He snaps. She snaps. She rushes across to him and demands the film from his camera. He refuses. She enlists the help of a young man passing by who takes on Beirne, gets the film and gives it to her. He is hailed as a Galahad. "My mother brought me up to be a gentleman," he says. The photographer says nothing about his own mother but says he will not go to court to reclaim his film. Another snapper on the scene gets the whole event and has himself a nice little earner.

So what have we here? Poor sad princess harassed to breaking point? Ex- royal-master-manipulatrix-gives-another-command-performance-and-gets-a- good-press? Working pressman savaged? Sleazebag snapper gets what he deserves? Camera hitsquad strikes gold? The answer is - probably all of the above.

It is just another day in the business of modern celebrity, where the most photographed woman in the world says "not this morning, thank you very much."

The issue of who sets the terms of publicity is at the nub of the modern fame game. Princess Diana so often lets it be known to her favourite snappers that she is going on what the papers ludicrously call a "secret mercy visit" that you might say that her whole life has become a photo-opportunity. Others argue more forcibly that photo-harassment makes for a life impossible to live. She was famously pictured leaving her therapist's house in tears; completely unacceptable, most people say. Even more so, if you believe the dark speculation that there was a group of photographers working as a pack trying to drive her to breaking point. Why? To make the big difference that "tearful" makes to any picture.

On these pages are a few of the occasions when celebs struck back. You might find it a heroic response; it is also the photoresult paparazzi dream of. The game gets ever tougher: the famous are more self-protective, they have more muscled minders, they are more finicky about who photographs them and how: the explosion in celebrity obsession goes on apace - the authorised "film star in her beautiful Beverly Hills drawing room" version, as seen in Hello; and the other ones - "Heart throb's toupee falls off in grope with 14-year-old mistress". We bring it to you, exclusive.

It's a tough multi-million dollar world out there. For every photographer who won't push it too far, there are now 10 who would kill for the once- in-a-lifetime snatch. And the hunger for it grows. In Britain there is voluntary self-regulation by the press of what is acceptable - no long lenses (unless you really really want it); there is talk of a privacy law. There is also the readers' vote. which is hard to predict but hurts when it hits. Last year a British paper published a photograph of Elizabeth Taylor opening the front door first thing in the morning, a snatched image of a sixty-something, formerly breathtaking beauty for whom many feel affection. Lots of the paper's readers didn't like it, and made their feelings known. They won't be printing one of those again.