Celebrity-hunter turned photographer launches star-filled exhibition

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

'Richard and Famous' takes a critical look at the cult of celebrity.

A man whose childhood obsession with celebrities turned into a life-long photography project, taking him all over the world, will have excerpts from his collection of over 1000 celebrity snapshots displayed in a gallery this week in an exhibition curated by the Magnum photographer Martin Parr.

The Open Eye Gallery, in Liverpool, will host the exhibition, entitled Richard and Famous, after the photographer Richard Simpkin's extensive collection of photos of himself posing with different celebrities. The collection spans three decades of celebrity culture, from 1989 to the present day.

The project has led Simpkin to travel across the world meeting celebrities and he even became an official band photographer along the way.

When Simpkin, who lives in Sydney, was just 15, he used to collect autographs until his friend showed him a picture of her father taken with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Central Park in New York. "I saw the photo and I thought, ‘I want to get my photo taken with people that go down in history. I went out and bought a $90-camera and got started."

His first two photos were taken with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Boris Becker. "When I was a kid it was a great thrill to be close to celebrities. I would go down to a hotel in Sydney where all the famous people stayed. You could see Bon Jovi, Kylie Minogue – everyone. I'd take my photos to school and all the other kids would crowd round and be asking who's Richard met this week?"

Simpkin has since captured the images of celebrities from the worlds of music, film, sports and politics, from Audrey Hepburn to Michael Jackson, the Dalai Lama to Nelson Mandela.

At 16 he left school and became a photographer for Michael Hutchence, the Australian musician and lead singer-songwriter of rock band INXS, after a chance encounter hanging around his studio during the school summer holidays. "He's the most charismatic person I ever met. He took me under his wing and there I was doing photo shoots with him — this kid with a camera getting him to do all different poses...He helped me out. He'd say ‘Helmet Newton does it this way' or explain the importance of lighting."

Simpkin spent eight years touring with Hutchence and they remained friends until his death. "I had breakfast with him and his dad in 1997 and his dad wanted to get a photo with the two of us together. Two days' later I found out he had killed himself in a hotel, so the last photo of Michael Hutchins alive was with me."

500 images from Simpkin's total collection of over 1000 celebrity snaps will be on display at the gallery, including a selection from his time working with Hutchence and a video interview he made with the INXS singer.

Simpkin has lived in the US and London to in order to add to his collection and has even gone "under-cover" in search of a photo. "Michael Jackson came to town in and every person in Australia knew where he was staying, I knew I needed to outsmart them, so I put on a casual suit and took a briefcase with my laptop. Everyone else was screaming and crying outside the hotel, but I was undercover so to speak. I was playing it cool. I went up and waited and worked on my laptop in the hallway, and when Jackson emerged I walked calmly over and asked him for a photo."

Next year, the project will be in its 25th year, and Simpkin plans to "retire" from taking the photos. "You can meet the who's who, and of course it's a great challenge, but I'm disillusioned. I'm not obsessed with celebrity. When I was younger, the ones I idolised were the ones with genuine Hollywood glamour. Now it's plastic celebrities that will dissolve in the future."

Richard Simpkin's work will be on display alongside LA-based photographer Simone Lueck who posted an advert online, inviting older women to pose for her in the guise of their favourite film star. Running concurrently to the main exhibition, Open Eye Gallery also hosts the archive exhibition Painted Photographs, featuring celebrity photographs from the personal collection of the photographer Martin Parr, who has also curated the Richard and Famous exhibition.

Parr, who is known for turning a critical eye on modern culture, said of Simpkin's work "Obsessively having his photo taken with the celebrities of the world, [Simpkin] shows them almost to be puppets in his own game of charades. Knowing how difficult it is to get access to celebrities in this day and age, it is an awesome achievement, and turns his whole game into a compelling piece of art."

Richard and Famous is at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, from 13 January to 18 March 2012.

www.openeye.org.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there