A stellar lens

This Sunday millions of movie fanatics around the world will gather ‘round the television to share in a Hollywood ritual of accolades and applause.

What started 79 years ago as a straight-forward dinner and trophy telecast from The Beverly Hills Hilton has evolved into an orchestrated extravaganza of fashion and film that surpasses any other evening in the long year of wrap parties and premieres.

With the building of The Kodak Theater at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Oscar was given a permanent home. The technical prowess of this multi-million dollar auditorium allows for lights, sound, camera angles and commercial breaks to be choreographed into a colossal spectacle worthy of a Madonna tour.

Yet as any attentive fan knows, the bookends to this show — the waltz down the red carpet and the up-til-dawn parties — have become as electrifying as the main event, and for some, even more important.

Los Angeles-based photographer Armando Arorizo has covered 10 Academy Awards for hundreds of newspapers in North America, Europe and South America.

Two days before the event, Arorizo is assigned his press spot on the red carpet as well as inside the exclusive press room. He studies the views and makes plans for lighting and equipment.

On the day of the telecast, armed with a press pass, three cameras, three lenses and a hefty breakfast of eggs, potatoes, juice, coffee and toast, Arorizo arrives at the press entrance no later than 8 a.m. “I’d rather sit and wait on an empty red carpet than stress in traffic and fight the crowds to get in.” Arorizo says.

With over 200 photo journalists (hired by news agencies world wide) and the hoards of paparazzi (free-lance photographers that plan to sell single images) all vying for an iconic moment, the press area is quickly stuffed with equipment and anxious bodies.

“I really enjoy this event because it’s the biggest one of the year. Not so much because I love movies or care who wins, but because it feels like a contest among the photographers — who can get the best shots.” Arorizo explains there is a camaraderie among the photographers who cover The Academy’s big night.

Dressed for the event, the press box is full of tuxedos and gowns, mirroring the red carpet rolled out before them.

With hundreds of flashes and acres of cheering, the scene Arorizo describes is overwhelming. “You may think you just got a great shot, and then you see there were other people’s flashes interfering with yours. That’s just part of it.”

Timing in an event like this determines whether your image is chosen or overlooked.

Arorizo uses a wide-angle, medium and tele-photo lens to capture the overall raucous crowd as well as intimate reactions of celebrities as they kiss the forehead of their newly bestowed prize.

As the work accumulates, assistants run back and forth carrying digital cards of hundreds of photos to their near-by computers.

Uploading the images immediately is a key to this type of event when many cities are hours ahead of Los Angeles and papers go to press just when winners begin their first toasts. “The world waits and hundreds of news agencies and clients log on to the wire to choose images for their publications.” This instantaneous feeding of work helps create the hyped-up energy of the night.

Arorizo currently works for two major wire services, Prensa Internationale and EFE, together feeding content to hundreds of publications and thousands of readers.

The next morning “I like to Google my name and see who picked up which images. It’s a huge distribution and prominent showcase for my work.”

In the next few days, “I look at all the major papers to see what else was picked up and to see colleagues’ images. That’s the competition feel of the Oscars among photographers.”

Arorizo is the photographer lying on his belly to capture Kobe Bryant’s jump-shot; he is the photographer holding his camera high above a Roman crowd mourning the death of Pope John Paul II; he is the photographer who walks with thousands of immigration-rights protesters through downtown Los Angeles; he is the photographer who catches a white-gowned Nicole Kidman among a sea of black tuxedos.

Armando Arorizo is the photographer who will tame tonight’s sea of pandemonious mayhem into a string of perfectly still moments.

• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 or kkeita@kauaipubco.com.


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