Born in Sydney, Australia in 1973 Richard first started his fascinating journey as a hobby in the 80’s waiting for his favourite sports stars with other kids. In 1988/89 he started attending record signings where he would meet visiting rock and pop bands of the day. This up and close personal experience gave Richard a buzz. In 1989 he found out about a hotel in Sydney’s red light district called the Sebel Town House, ‘The Sebel’ is where many of the worlds visiting celebrities would stay. At first Richard would simply wait with other fans and collect autographs of the whose who of the celebrity world; then late in 1989 a fellow fan showed Richard a photo of her father with John Lennon, the photo was taken in New York’s Central Park in the 1970’s and from that moment on Richard was inspired to have his photo taken with the celebrities that he was meeting; the then teenager purchased a $90.00 camera and the following year (1990) he had his photo taken with approximately one hundred celebrities.
In November 1989 Richard met Michael Hutchence who was the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world at that time; INXS. Richard didn’t know what charisma was but there was something truly unique and special about Michael and even as a young teenager, Richard knew it.
In January 1990 INXS were in the recording studios to record their album X, Richard along with two other friends and fellow fans of the band hung out at the studios and waited for the band members. At the end of the month it was time to head back to school but instead Richard stayed at the recording studios, in fact he ended up staying five months at the studios and the whole time he was there he captured it on film. As the years passed, Michael would often pose for candid photo shoots for Richard and they remained friends until Michael’s passing in 1997. In fact Richard met up with Michael and his dad Kell just two days before his untimely death and was waiting to take Michael to rehearsals the day that he passed away.
From the 1990’s Richard worked as a freelance photographer for the largest photo agencies in Australia (Sydney Freelance and Icon Images) and it was in the mid 90’s that he realised that his photos with him and celebrities could be much more important than simple ‘fan photos’. “I looked at my photo album one day and thought if I could continue to have my photo taken with people that are going to be remembered in history for a number of years then one day I would have an interesting exhibition”.
In 1997 Richard at the age of just twenty - three started a project which he called; Australian Legends. “I was noticing that a lot of Australian Legends were passing away and there were small stories in the paper, but once you threw the paper away you forgot about them, so I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to meet, photograph and if possible interview those whom I considered to be Australian legends.” Richard then commenced his journey by sending out proposal letters to certain legends with the idea of a book with mixed results. “The problem was I didn’t have a publisher, there I was asking iconic Australians such as former Prime Ministers and famous actors etc for their time and they were asking me who was going to publish my book and I was telling them I didn’t know, but I needed them to trust me as I was determined to meet as many legends as I could. Finally after eight years I managed to meet, photograph and in most cases interview 80 Australian Legends and in August 2005 my book Australian Legends – People Whose Story We Should Know, was launched at Parliament House by the Premier of NSW Bob Carr, it became a best seller and the ten thousand copies that were published by New Holland Publishers sold out within three months”.
One of the legends in the book was named Nora Heysen; in 1938 Nora became the first female to win the prestigious Archibald Prize causing (at the time) huge controversy. In 2004 Richard was chosen as a finalist in the photography section of the Archibald Prize (Australian Photographic Portrait Prize), his photograph of Nora was hung at the NSW Art Gallery for several months and is now on permanent display at The Cedars museum in Adelaide South Australia.
Two photographic exhibitions followed the Australian Legends book release, the first being at the Hotel InterContinental Sydney and the second being at the Berrima Art Gallery.
In 2007 Richard’s second book was released, titled Richard and Famous – Twenty Years Of Meeting and Snapping The Stars, the book is about Richard’s life meeting and photographing celebrities since 1989. “I released a book about this side of my life as almost everyday people ask me about what this person is like or that person is like and I spend half my day telling stories about celebrities, now I just say that it’s all in my book”.
During the release of Richard’s second book (Richard and Famous) he became an instant hit with the media undertaking up to twenty radio interviews a day and appearing on such TV shows as The Today Show, Today Tonight and The Morning Show. In November Richard was on the cover of the Sun Herald newspaper and appeared in New Idea magazine (three page feature) and in the same month Australia’s no 1 breakfast radio duo; Kyle and Jackie O had Richard live in the studio for an interview; the interview was such an overwhelming success that it was chosen as a best of interview for that entire year and was replayed numerous times over the festive season. Over the next few years Richard released a further three more best selling books: 100 Australian Legends - The people who shaped a nation (2014) Michael In Pictures - A celebration of the life of Michael Hutchence 1960 - 1997 (2015) and Richard Simpkin's Celebrity Quotes (2016).
In 2008 Richard had two exhibitions, the first being Snap, Crackle and Pop Art, his twenty first century Pop Art debut at the Dank St Galleries and was a huge success, so much so that the Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper (Japan) did a feature story on the exhibition for its Japanese readers, with a circulation of over 14 million daily the Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper is credited with having the largest newspaper circulation in the world.
In October of that year the Richard and Famous exhibition debuted at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney Australia, in just 26 days over 4200 people viewed the exhibition, making it one of the most popular exhibitions for the gallery that year.
In 2010 the exhibition went to M.Zilinskas Art Gallery in Kaunas Lithuania, the exhibition was a huge success and was spotted by famed British Magnum photographer Martin Parr who was so impressed by Richard’s exhibition that he contacted Richard to bring his work to the UK.
In January 2012 the Richard and Famous exhibition made its UK debut at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, curated by Martin Parr the exhibition was seen by over 13,500 people in just 8 weeks.
From the UK it made its way back to Australia in March and was shown at FotoFreo in Western Australia, the show opened on Friday 16th March 2012 and was so popular that on the opening night the festivals directors had to shut it down before the nights end due to overcrowding.
2013 proved to be a great year for the exhibition. It showed in Barcelona, Spain at; Foto Colectania. Curated by Joan Fontcuberta the show ran from 20th February - 25 May.
From there it went to Lodz, Poland where it showed at FotoFestiwal 2013.
By 2013 Richard had spent 25 consecutive years working on the Richard and Famous exhibition and as the year ended Richard decided to stop working on the exhibition.
“By 2013 I had worked on the same project for 25 consecutive years, I think thats long enough for anyone to work on a single exhibition, but in saying that I will still occasionally get "Celebrity Selfies" so my collection will grow to be one of the most, if not the most fascinating and important photographic collections in the world today".
The Richard and Famous exhibition continues to travel to galleries and photo festivals around the world. In recent years it has been to Victoria, Australia, Sydney, Australia and The Paraty em Foco Festival in Brazil
On 1st September 2014 Richard launched World Letter Writing Day.
“Whilst working on the Australian Legends books I contacted each legend by writing a letter to them requesting a photoshoot and an interview, I found that a letter addressed to each of the legends had a much greater impact than an email and I also enjoyed receiving a letter back from the legends so I started WLWD and now teach school children how to write letters”.
“As a photographer I believe I must try to give something back to the community, I have done this with World Letter Writing Day which has now gone global”.
In December 2014 Richard visited Frankston in Victoria Australia and Cube 37 at The Frankston Art Centre to shoot the photographic exhibition The Locals of Frankston. Richard photographed and documented the locals stories to present a true snapshot of the diverse range of people that make Frankston such a unique bayside city. The collection of portraits aimed to promote Frankston in a positive way and celebrate a wonderful exhibition of just some of the interesting people that are known to many locally and make up the city of Frankston.
In July 2017 The City of Frankston asked Richard if they could use Richard’s images of the locals of Frankston to again promote Frankston. His images were once again on display at The Frankston Arts Centre (July – October) and were also used on trains and buildings throughout the city. “It was a great thrill for me to help the city of Frankston in Victoria Australia get some much needed positive publicity and to also let some of the locals shine”.
Richard now does the Celebrity Speaking Circuit where he tells not only humorous and entertaining stories about his life meeting celebrities but also adds inspiring and motivational stories about success and thinking quick on your feet, something Richard has had to do whilst working on his projects.
He still exhibits various photographic exhibitions and now works as an artist producing art and creates everything for sale with his unique art/images from cushions to posters and everything in between.
PO Box 344 Rose Bay Sydney Australia 2029
Online Shop: https://www.threadless.com/@RichardSimpkin
"Some people say its populist, but for him to do this, you have to be highly professional, highly trained.
He makes it look easy , but we all know its not" - Martin Parr.
InterContinental Hotel - Sydney Australia 2005
Berrmia District Art Gallery – NSW Australia 2006
Dank Street Art Gallery – Sydney Australia 2008
Australian Centre for Photography – Sydney Australia 2008
Kunos Photo Festival – Kaunas Lithuania (video) 2009
M.Zilinskas Art Gallery – Kaunas Lithuania 2010
Open Eye Gallery – Liverpool United Kingdom (curated by Martin Parr) 2012
PhotoFreo – Fremantle Western Australia 2012
Foto Colectania Foundation – Barcelona Spain 2013
FotoFestwal – Lodz Poland 2013
Head On Photo Festival – Sydney Australia 2014
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery – Victoria Australia 2015
Frankston Arts Centre – Victoria Australia 2015
Paraty em Foco Festival – Brazil 2015
Frankston Art Centre and Frankston City Council – Melbourne Australia 2017
Blender Gallery - Sydney Australia (November 2017)
National Film & Sound Archives
ACMI – Australian Centre for Moving Image
The Cedars – (The Hans Heysen Gallery/Museum)
Private Collections Worldwide
Australian Legends – People Whose Story We Should Know - 2005
Richard & Famous - 20 Years of Meeting & Snapping The Stars – 2007
100 Australian Legends – The People Who Shaped A Nation - 2014
Michael In Pictures – A Celebration of The Life of Michael Hutchence - 2015
Richard Simpkin’s Celebrity Quotes – Quotes & Images From Celebrities Unguarded Moments - 2016
The Prize aims to reward a living photographer who has made the most significant contribution to the medium of photography in Europe over the past year.