From Johnny Cash to the Dalai Lama, Richard Simpkin is an obsessed celebrity photo collector and has called it his hobby for the last 23 years! Now, famous in his own right within the art world, the exhibit ‘Richard & Famous’ showcases select photos of the Australian super-fan and some of the biggest names in celebritydom!
There photos aren’t just of Richard Simpkin and famous figures but function as documents of his own journey over the last, consecutive, 23 years, from adolescence to adulthood. What’s unique about this series (as many have photos with or of celebrities, in this age of the camera phone and internet, making it easy to track celebrities down) is that it began in the 80s, before the ease of capturing digitally. In the self portrait exhibition, on display at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, the changing times are alluded to, from ‘the age of innocence’ that spanned the 80s and 90s, with regards to the relationship fans had with celebrities,to present.
Some of the celebrities included in the photos Richard has selected for the exhibition are Audrey Hepburn, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, Nelson Mandela, and Heath Ledger! See the list of celebrities, year-by.year, in the timeline on his website. As Simpkin expresses in this Seven Streets interview, the photos taken in the 80s, when he was younger and of no real threat to the celebrity’s security, were easier to obtain and more pleasant in terms of experience, for both sides involved.
You can read some uncomfortable expressions on the faces of the stars, such as Woody Allen, and others whose appear so relaxed, such as Heath Ledger, that it’s impossible to see the line of separation between fan and celebrity. As Richard states, of the shift in times, “there was a noticeable change during the mid 90s. The whole thing became a lot more professional, slick and organised, so it’s very difficult to get a photo with celebs nowadays.”