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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Celebrity photographers are jostling for proof of the apparent reconciliation of singer Chris Brown and Rihanna, whose stormy relationship has fascinated and stunned fans and feminists.
Photo agencies said on Monday that the first picture of the couple together again, three weeks after Brown's alleged assault on his girlfriend, would fetch at least $100,000.
Francois Navarre, owner of photo agency X17, said a shot of the "Umbrella" singer and her 19 year-old boyfriend is one of the most sought after in the celebrity news world -- right behind an elusive, idyllic family photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with their six children.
People and Us Weekly have reported that Brown, whose hits include "Run It!" and "Kiss Kiss", and Barbados-born Rihanna, 21, spent the past weekend in Miami. E! Online reported that paparazzi in helicopters buzzed over the private estate where they were reported to be staying, trying to get photos.
"Dysfunction sells, crazy sells and the more people's relationships seems to be out of whack, everyone is just fascinated to watch them to see how it unravels," said Elayne Rapping, a professor and pop culture expert with University at Buffalo of the State University of New York.
Los Angeles prosecutors have yet to decide whether to formally charge Brown over the February 8 incident, which forced both stars to cancel their Grammy appearances the next day.
California law allows prosecutors to charge an individual with domestic violence, even if the couple reunites.
Celebrity Web site TMZ.com on Monday posted grainy video it said showed Rihanna and the clean-cut Brown exiting a jet separately in Los Angeles the night before.
"If somebody who has a squeaky clean image suddenly appears not to be so squeaky clean, I think that in many ways is a disturbing sense of, 'Aha gotcha, see you're just as bad as anyone else,'" Rapping said.
"We like to see them rise and then we like to see them come down," she said.
Psychiatrist Dr.Carole Lieberman, author of the book "Bad Boys," said the many comments posted on Web sites in support of Brown point to a larger trend.
"It reflects the growing war between the sexes, where men are feeling emasculated by increasingly powerful women and are more often resorting to abuse," Lieberman said.
In the meantime, photographic proof of the couple's reunion remains to be shot by an army of eager paparazzi.
But even photo agency prices are down in the poor economy.
"The same crisis as there is in the stock market we have in the photo market," Navarre said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant