Celebrity at the Open Eye

Uncategorized 13 Jan 12

Martin Parr has brought together 2 great photographers and some photos he has collected from flea markets in New York to produce a show about celebs. It’s a really interesting show and I must admit that I when I first saw some of the work I didn’t like it. I’m not a fan of celebs so I quickly dismissed it. However, upon hearing the photographers discuss their work it’s changed my mind. I understand and like it now.

Richard Simpkin has spent 23 years taking photographs of himself with other celebs. His plan is to continue for another 2 years and end it. When I first saw it I thought it was simply photographs of some crazy fan who stalked celebs for most of his life. I was wrong to judge it because it is really not that simple.

Richard started in 1989 when he was inspired by a friend’s Dad to photograph himself with famous people. He isn’t an actual fan of celebs or the culture. He takes these photos because he wants to attach himself to history. In 100 years these people will still be famous, still hold some value to society. He felt that was important so he started to photograph himself with famous people. After about 5 years, at age 20, he realised that it was more than a little thing he had been working on and was an actual project with some real weight. He could see just how much he had changed over the first 5 years of the project. He kept going. Celeb after celeb and after 23 years he has over 2,000 photographs.

If you look at the body of work you would be hard pressed to find any reality TV stars. Richard views them as “disposable” celebs. They’ll be famous for less than 15 minutes. It’s perfectly understandable when you see that he’s been photographed with people like Nelson Mandela. Real people who are famous for doing great things.

His work transcends age groups. Grandparents can take their kids and they’ll both spot people that the other hasn’t a clue about. There’s fun in seeing people like Kylie age over the years. It’s interesting seeing

It’s an interesting project. Richard goes to great lengths to photograph himself with these celebs. It takes a lot of planning and handwork to track them down, get access and then a bit of luck in getting the shot. You’ve got to give the guy credit for sticking to the project all these years and for putting in the hours to build it.

The Guardian ran a competition as a tie in for this where you had to send in a photo of you with a famous person. The winner would get a free train ticket to the opening and a night in the Malmaison with a free bottle of champagne. My girlfriend, Sam, entered and we joked about winning. Spending the night in a hotel in Liverpool seemed surreal, especially one where we could see our house from. Hilariously though she won the prize! The overall winner could not be contacted so Martin Parr chose another and it was Sam. We stayed at the ‘Toffee Suite’ which was thankfully not overly Everton FC themed and enjoyed our free £55 bottle of champagne over dinner. Thank you Suggs. You can see the winning photos on the Guardian website.

Simone Lucek has produced a series of photographs of women who perhaps feel that they’ve missed their golden moment to step into the limelight. She advertised on Craigslist for mature women who wanted to have their fantasy, their idea of glamour photographed. 150 responded and she picked the most unique ideas to shoot. Everyone did their own makeup and wardrobe and most people were happy with the results. Some were a little surprised by the reality of the image. They were expecting something a bit more romantic I guess. Due to the mature nature of the subjects their ideas of glamour were quite removed from a modern day image. They connected more with people like Bridget Bardot.

Martin Parr is also exhibiting at the Open Eye. If you know of him you’ll know he’s a collector. He’s been collecting old photographs from New York flea markets. These old photographs have the markings on them where photo editors would crop to. It’s an interesting behind the scenes look at editorial photography before Photoshop. There’s a classic photo of John and Yoko with Yoko crossed out. Clearly someone isn’t a fan.

It was interesting meeting Martin Parr. I can’t say I’ve ever understood his work. People said his photos were funny. I didn’t see it. Perhaps I never gave it a good chance. They had signed copies of his book, ‘The Last Resort’, for sale at the Open Eye so I got one. I figured if I was ever going to get a copy that’d be the one to get. After reading the intro and properly looking through the book I must admit that I kinda get it now. I live in New Brighton so there’s the historical aspect to his work but also the comedy of the place. People sunbathing by construction diggers for example. Amazingly the doughnut shop that my girlfriend and I visit a couple of times a year still exists. It’s in a photograph in his book. In this economy a doughnut shop survives.

Martin Parr talked about his collecting habit. In the picture he is wearing an Obama shirt. He felt that his Mugabe shirt wouldn’t have gone down as well. He has over 90 Sadam watches and is trying to build a collection of Gaddafi watches. He also has over 12,000 photo books. 12,000!

At the end of the day this is why I love the Open Eye gallery. It puts photography in front of me that I’d never normally look at and it makes me think. Here’s to 2012.