So the Brangelina-baby photo hunt will likely end precisely when and where the proud parents want it to. “If Brad and Angelina do not want anybody to see the baby, then they have the capacity to keep the baby out of the public eye,” says Bonnie Fuller. But at some point, the couple might want to show off their new addition, and there are several tried-and-true strategies Jolie and Pitt can use when it comes to determining who gets the first shot of their baby, and how it’s gotten.
One such strategy is what some paparazzi darkly refer to as “pulling a Sarah Jessica Parker.” After giving birth to her and Matthew Broderick’s first child, James Wilke, at Lenox Hill in 2002, Parker informed the paparazzi that she and her husband and newborn baby would be leaving the hospital through a certain exit at a certain time. At the appointed hour, the threesome marched out and stood on the hospital steps for three or four minutes, letting all those assembled get a good look. That made the paparazzi’s job easy—too easy. The market was flooded with “first photos” of little James Wilke, turning what some predicted would be a million-dollar picture into a discount special. “There were 200 photos of that baby,” says Frank Griffin, co-owner of the photo agency Bauer-Griffin, “and they all sold for $75 a picture.” Which, of course, is exactly what Parker hoped would happen, since, with her baby’s picture now largely worthless, the paparazzi would be more likely to leave her and her family alone.
Parker’s strategy, however, does squander money that could otherwise be put to good use. After Gwyneth Paltrow gave birth to her and Chris Martin’s daughter, Apple, in 2004, Paltrow tipped off an old friend, the photographer Steve Sands, about when and through which exit she’d be leaving her London hospital. Sands snapped a few supposedly “surprise” shots of Paltrow, Martin, and Apple, and sold the pictures for a reported $125,000 to People. “That was my most expensive photo,” says Sands, who wouldn’t confirm an exact figure. He says he’s hoping that Paltrow, who is pregnant again, will give him a similar opportunity with “Apple 2.0.”
“I’d say there’s a zero percent chance that Brad and Angelina will sell their pictures to ‘OK!’ Say what you will about Brad and Angelina, but they’re not low-rent.”
Another technique is to steer the money to charity. Last year, for instance, Julia Roberts had her husband, Danny Moder, take pictures of their 3-month-old twins, Hazel and Phinnaeus, and sell the photos to People for a figure that sources say was between $100,000 and $150,000. Roberts then donated the money to an environmental group. Courteney Cox and David Arquette released a picture of their baby daughter, Coco, to the photo agency Wire Image on the condition that all the proceeds go to a charity.
And then, of course, there are the celebrities who pocket the money. Saying who does this is hard, because none of them—or their publicists—will cop to it. But it’s an open secret in the celebrity-publishing game that sometimes a good portion of the money a magazine pays a charity or a photographer or a photo agency for an exclusive first-baby photo finds its way into the bank account of the baby’s parents. The rumors about this practice are particularly vicious when it comes to Spears and Federline.
Officially, the exclusive first photos of Sean Preston that People ran were secured with a donation—said to be in the neighborhood of $500,000—from the magazine to a charity Spears established to help Hurricane Katrina victims. “The money went to the Britney Foundation or whatever it’s called,” says People managing editor Larry Hackett. (Spears’s publicist Leslie Sloane Zelnik would not confirm whether her client required that any fee be paid, to charity or otherwise, for the photos.) But that hasn’t stopped many in the industry from openly speculating that the money went elsewhere. “The money didn’t go to charity,” says one industry source, “unless you consider Kevin Federline charity.” Adds an editor at a celebrity weekly: “Britney had it in her prenup that any money they make together he gets half of. This is Kevin’s primary source of income.”
No one thinks Brad and Angelina will sell the first picture of their child in order to fatten their own wallets. But the consensus is that the couple will use it to raise money for one of their favorite charities—probably Yéle Haiti, which was established by Jolie’s friend Wyclef Jean to fund development projects in his native country. This is what Jolie did when she revealed that she was pregnant during a visit to a Yéle Haiti project in January: She allowed one of the charity’s employees to take a picture, which Yéle Haiti then sold to People and its sister publication in Australia for $500,000.