VANCOUVER—If you pay his rate, Vancouver photographer Rik Fedyck will snap shots of any celebrity for you.
With the arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan in British Columbia, he says he’s been fielding calls from publications around the world.
But Fedyck, a freelancer, says he’d only be willing to make the trek to Vancouver Island — it’s an hour and 35 minutes on the ferry — if an agency paid him up front, and so far none have.
“My day rate is $1,000 a day, plus expenses,” he said.
Harry and Meghan may have expected a reprieve from celebrity photographers when they stepped back from their royal duties and retreated to Canada — currently the couple are staying in North Saanich, a picturesque and quiet community on Vancouver Island. And so far, locals, even news outlets, seem to be embracing the couple’s desire for privacy, but the shadow of paparazzi is looming large over Vancouver Island.
Photographs of Meghan walking in a park with baby Archie and two dogs appeared in newspapers and on websites Monday, leading the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to issue a legal threat to media.
Other photographers have already made their way to the mansion north of Victoria, where Meghan, Harry and eight-month-old Archie are reportedly staying.
Lawyers representing the couple say photographers attempted to take pictures of the inside of their home using long-range lenses and that paparazzi have been camped outside the property, according to the BBC.
Canadian privacy lawyer Roger McConchie said the pair may have grounds for a civil suit against photographers camping out by their home, but that it would be difficult to argue in a British Columbia court that Meghan had a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public park.
And that’s what Canadian privacy law turns on — whether someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy. If someone reasonably could have expected privacy, then they have a better chance of winning a lawsuit.
“Probably she would have a very low expectation of privacy, barring some very aggressive conduct by the photographers, such as approaching within a foot or two or lifting a blanket to get a really good shot of the baby,” McConchie said.
“But I would think using modern camera technology, coupled with telephoto lenses to look at someone’s residences, would probably get a photographer in trouble with the privacy act.”
Monetary settlements over privacy violations aren’t generally very high, said McConchie — and they probably wouldn’t be enough to deter tabloid publications from continuing to publish photos of Meghan and Harry. Tabloids would probably consider any payment for damages as the cost of doing business, he said.
Fedyck is unfazed.
He said if the royal couple were to settle in Vancouver — they were rumoured to have been eyeing real estate in the city’s tony Kitsilano neighbourhood — he would consider staking out their home for a bit, even without being paid up front.
“If they do move here, if they buy that house in Kits, I might sit on them a day or two.”
Fedyck has experienced his own share of the unwanted limelight.
In 2015, Vancouver police charged him with assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and criminal harassment after he allegedly hit actor Ryan Reynolds with his car in an underground parking lot in downtown Vancouver. The charges were eventually dropped. Fedyck said he was unfairly treated by the media.
Some Vancouver Island residents are more sympathetic to Harry and Meghan’s plight.
Kevin Light is a sports photographer in Victoria who also works for news agency Reuters.
He said he would ask the couple’s security detail first before taking a photo. If they declined? “As a local professional … I would put my camera down,” he said in an email.
“I think that respect would go a long way over time,” said Light.
“If they are here long term, I would like them to know the locals are good people and have a basic respect for others.”
Some locals are taking it a step further, actively preventing foreign photographers from reaching the famous couple. The owner of a water taxi service in North Saanich told media outlets that he refused to carry three British photographers out to the waterfront home rented by the couple.
And the Times Colonist in Victoria said it held back on reporting that Meghan and Harry were in town for Christmas until after the holidays were over.
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Harry and Meghan’s “connection to our island is worthy of note, but their day-to-day existence here is not. Let them be,” wrote editor and publisher Dave Obee in an op-ed. “Every year, our staff members see celebrities and leave them alone. We don’t take spy photos, we don’t take ambush photos.”
Earlier this week, the Victoria-based television station Chek ran a piece on its newscast about the couple in a local park, but chose not to show actual footage of them.
Scott Fee is the news director at Chek. He said the decision to give the pair their privacy comes partly from feedback from their viewers.
“They’re quite protective of Harry and Meghan. I think they’re respecting that the couple is choosing to reside here for however long,” Fee said. “I think people want them to feel comfortable and I think that they don’t want us to be part of the problem.”
With a 60-year history in Victoria, he said, making sure the local audience doesn’t sour on the TV station for any perceived hounding of the royal family is a concern. So balancing what is and isn’t legitimate news coverage of the pair takes careful consideration.
Essentially, Fee said, something has to be happening to warrant coverage.
“We will analyze: What are the repercussions? Do we care today? Does it matter today? Is there an angle that matters today?” he said. “But it’s really only been a handful of stories we’ve done.”
Fee said his team still gets accusations that they are bothering the family, and worries the collection of international media is inadvertently tainting his station as well.
Longtime news photographer Lyle Stafford says the couple should expect to make headlines when they step out in public.
“It’s not paparazzi, this is news. This is a news event,” he said, referring to Harry and Meghan stepping back from their royal duties and moving part time to Canada.
“Are they royals, are they private citizens, or are the public figures? I find it disingenuous these people make millions of dollars from the public, but want to keep them at arm’s length.”
Stafford, who now lives in Winnipeg, took candid photographs of celebrities in Hollywood North for 20 years. Many celebrities know the drill, he said.
“The real pros in the world, they walk out of their homes, they smile, they go to work,” he said.
The idea of paparazzi lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting celebrity is unsavoury to many, but Fedyck defended his profession.
“The photographers here, it’s not as nasty as (the media) portrays it,” he said. “There’s a lot of respect. People use the profile, the bad profile of a paparazzi, to fit all the photographers.”
Fedyck said celebrities such as Channing Tatum, Michael Bublé and Jamie Dornan have all approached him to ask him not to take photos of their family.
“I’ve respected their wishes. They’ve come up, talk to me as a normal person,” he said.
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