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ne of the most curious
exhibitions at FotoFreo 2012
Western Australia’s largest
photography festival – is
Richard and Famous. This series of around
500 snapshots features celebrities from
Audrey Hepburn to Nelson Mandela and
Bono. Some are smiling, others look
shocked or slightly puzzled, but they all
have one thing in common – the other man
in the picture, Richard Simpkin.
The Sydney local has spent 23 years
amassing this 2000-strong collection,
which began when he was 15 years old.
“The idea was to be photographed with
people of historical significance,” he says.
“I thought it might make an interesting
exhibition one day.”
That’s certainly proved the case.
More than 4000 people saw Richard and
Famous when it debuted at The Australian
Centre for Photography in 2008. It then
showed at the 2010 Kaunas Photo Festival
in Lithuania and, most recently, at
Liverpool’s prestigious Open Eye gallery
in a show curated by leading British
photographer Martin Parr.
“Some people say it’s populist,” Martin
says of the exhibition’s celebrity appeal.
“But for him to do this, you have to be
highly professional, highly trained. He
makes it look easy, but we all know it’s not.”
Martin, who undertook a major
commission for FotoFreo 2012, introduced
Richard to the festival’s director Bob
Hewitt. “I liked that the exhibition
operates on different levels,” Bob says.
“Richard hasn’t only been documenting
celebrities, he has been documenting
himself for 23 years.”
So how does a relatively unknown
photographer – working on a cheap film
camera (before going digital in 2004) –
become a fine-art success?
“There is a palpable sense of optimism that
anyone – no matter what their training
or background – could become someone
in the world of photography”
Over 23 years, Richard Simpkin has dedicated himself to being
photographed with the stars, including (from top) Michael
Hutchence, Nelson Mandela, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Jackson,
Kylie Minogue and the Dalai Lama.
9/3/12 5:49:13 PM
9/3/12 5:49:13 PM
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