The other day I made a brief visit to The Open Eye Gallery to see their current exhibition with the puntastic title Richard and Famous. The exhibition is a collection of the photographs of Richard Simpkin detailing a lifetime of tracking celebrities and catching their image.
Surely that's not particular interesting; we are surrounded by reproduced images of celebrities in nearly all forms of media. Well what makes these celeb pics interesting is the appearance of Simpkin himself, Simpkin originally set out to collect autographs, until he realised that a photograph captured a moment in time, provided proof of occupying the same space of these elevated people.
Simpkins choice of the image over the written word strikes me as the right choice, as the image is much older then the word. When this thing called humanity began to communicate it did so with images, only when life became more complex more abstract the need for the written word arise. Its with these vague thoughts of cave paintings that make me think that these photographs, and maybe all forms of photography, are extensions of sympathetic magic. That the camera is a spiritual medium for us to capture a moment, or to transform a mundane moment into something more.
After all if a moment is caught by a camera there must be some relevance to that moment?
Simpkins photographs are a collection of those moments. What started out as a hobby transformed into a document of Simpkins life, beginning in his teenage years in 1989 through to maturity and the current day. Looking at the photographs spread across two walls underlined with a handy timeline the sense of a lifetime is there. As a look at the photographs, I realise that the 'celebs' that I notice seem to mark certain periods in my life e.g I spot Dave Mustaine, Rob Zombie, Chris Cornell there's something comforting and yet disturbing in the way my memory is connected with these famous faces. Maybe I shouldn't be so pleased to have spotted Pixie Lott on the wall.
This is Simpkins life he becomes the focus of the photographs and the famous people, the ever changing people next to Simpkins become transient less important. Stars may come and go but through these photographs Simpkins gains a sense of permanence. It easy to make a connection the way time is marked by Simpkins and the way time is marked in the work of someone like On Kawara, and when you think about it Simpkins or has all the hallmarks of Conceptualism. A simple rule repeated again and again, along with the use of the camera as passive observer.
The camera is the unsung hero in all this, as it is the tool that enables Simpkins in his quest it's also the device in which he, and perhaps we all do, attempt to immortalise himself to present himself to future generations who'll ponder the presence of this kindly smiling face who allowed himself to photographed with all these strangers.