End of the Big Picture: king of paparazzi says trade is dying


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The Independent Online

Celebrities worried about their cellulite can breathe a little bit easier this month after it emerged that one of the most prominent paparazzi agencies had plunged into administration, with the controversial head saying the business had changed “dramatically”.

Big Pictures, fronted by the larger than life Australian Darryn Lyons, called in administrators RSM Tenon at the end of September, on the 20th anniversary of the company's launch. It leaves hundreds of furious snappers, as well as staff, after the firm to get the money they are owed.

Mr Lyons, the self-styled King of Paparazzi who became a minor media personality himself on the reality show circuit, said the climate in Europe was "devastating" and last month he returned to live in Geelong, Australia where he grew up.

He told the Herald Sun: "The paparazzi business has changed so dramatically. It's like the industrial revolution and smart business people have to move with the times."

The world's largest celebrity picture agency ran into serious cash flow problems over the summer, and Mr Lyons sent an email to staff in August warning them of the impending administration. One associate said the company had problems "for several years," before adding: "Also their reputation wasn't good."

Mr Lyons is believed to be involved in a company with former chief executive Nigel Regan, according to sources close to the company, which has bid for assets of Big Pictures. This includes part of the archives, which comprise 5 million images in total.

Charlie Pycraft, a freelance photographer owed £5,000, said that many were in a worse position than him, and were looking to get the police involved to secure the return of their original work.

Mr Lyons moved to London at the age of 22 to work for the News of the World and then the Daily Mail, before setting up Big Pictures in 1992. He told the local paper that he had resigned from Big Pictures in April although remained the chairman.

A spokeswoman for RSM confirmed the company's plight but failed to elaborate further. Calls into Big Pictures were received by a switchboard operator who said she was the only person there.

It is unclear what has happened to the 75-strong staff worldwide as detailed on the company's website, but according to Press Gazette, 21 members of staff in London were made redundant last month.

Big Pictures came to prominence after it sold a picture to the News of the World to support a story involving David Beckham and his then personal assistant Rebecca Loos.

Mr Lyons said he had been planning to return to Geelong for some time. "You can take the boy out of Geelong, but you can't take Geelong out of the boy," he said.

He has a series of potential ventures in Geelong, he said and even did not rule out running for mayor "because of my passion for the town and the people".

Big Pictures: Big scoops

The biggest story documented by Big Pictures involved David Beckham. Just over a decade after Darryn Lyons set up the agency it secured photographs of the “explosive nightclub scenes” of the football star with his assistant Rebecca Loos, which sent the tabloids into a frenzy. The agency also prided itself on securing the “first intimate pics” of Hollywood A-listers Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who got together while filming Mr and Mrs Smith, released in 2005.

Big Pictures also boasted of its “romantic holiday snaps” of Prince William and his wife before they tied the knot.