Precious images

Private moments turn pricey bargaining chips

For a while now, the seamy world of stalkerazzi-style celebrity photos has been giving way to a more polite arrangement in which celebs hire reputable photo agencies to snap their most memorable moments: Donald Trump‘s wedding, Brooke Shields‘ new baby.

In exchange for granting the invaluable commodity of access, celebs get complete control over the photos — how they’re shot and where they end up.

The news last week that People magazine paid $4.1 million for photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie‘s baby Shiloh took the practice to a new level, both in terms of media mania and money.

Although the pricetag is denied by People and is said to be inflated by unhappy losing bidders, the pics’ price is believed to be a significantly higher figure than what People paid for photos of Julia Roberts‘ twins, Gwyneth Paltrow‘s daughter Apple and Britney Spears‘ baby and wedding pics — which were all reportedly in the low-six figure range.

The Brad and Angelina pics’ proceeds went to charity.

A spokeswoman for Getty Images, which shot the pics, would not confirm the price, but says, “This set of pictures will ultimately generate more money than any other set of pictures that we’ve distributed.”

Price wasn’t the only drama surrounding Baby Brangelina. Getty held a clandestine, all-night auction for magazine bidders, with People emerging the winner among U.S. pubs. (The U.K.’s Hello! mag won the British auction, and New Idea is publishing the pics in Oz.)

The mags’ exclusivity was quickly spoiled, however, by two Web sites that leaked the pics, prompting People and Hello! to take legal action.

People managing editor Larry Hackett called the posted pics “stolen property,” likening the situation to “children playing with knives.”

“People need to think about what they are doing or face the consequences,” he said. “If they post the pics, they will hear from us.”

Although it’s unlikely People will be able to justify the pricetag in magazine sales — the mag would need to sell at least 2 million more copies of the issue, in addition to the 3.7 million newsstand and subscription copies it sells every week — the deal is a bragging-rights coup.

“The idea that People magazine would not have these was intolerable to me,” Hackett says.

The same sentiment was shared by Getty, which secured the right to take the pics thanks to Getty CEO Jonathan Klein‘s involvement in third-world charity — a cause he shares with Save the World musketeer Jolie.

Last September, Klein and Jolie sat next to each other at an AIDS charity awards dinner.

“We started talking about these issues, how everyone needs to make a difference,” Klein says. “What we have is pictures, what she has is celebrity.”

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