Q: How old were you when you started meeting celebrities?
R: I first started meeting ‘celebrities’ when I was probably ten or eleven, my friend & I used to wait with a bunch of other kids after the football matches for the players to leave & ask for their autographs, but it wasn’t until I was fifteen that I started meeting international celebrities.
Q: Who was your first one?
R: Its hard to say, I used to go to a lot of signings, meaning a band or a solo singer would go to a record shop & sign records, a lot of that would happen in the 80’s it was all very fan friendly & innocent, these days a lot of celebrities don’t want to sign because they think you’re going to sell their autograph on eBay, I think the first real international celebrity that I got my photo taken with in 1989 would be Sammy Davis Jr.
Q: At first you started collecting autographs, what made you then ask for a photo?
R: In 1989 I was waiting with a few other fans at a hotel in Sydney called the Sebel Townhouse, the ‘Sebel’ is where most of the visiting celebrities of the day would stay.
While we were waiting this fan who was also a friend of mine showed me a photo of her father sitting next to John Lennon & Yoko Ono, the photo was taken in the 1970’s in New York’s Central Park & I remember thinking at the time that her father wasn’t famous but there he was sitting next to John Lennon who was one of the most famous people in the world & he is a part of history so I thought to myself whenever I meet another celebrity Im going to get my photo taken with them. I wanted to get my photo taken with those that were going to be remembered in history.
Q: When did you realise that you had more that just fan photos in your collection?
R: In the mid 90’s I was looking through my photo album & from 89 onwards I had placed my photos in a chronological order & I had obviously changed throughout the years so I thought if I keep getting my photo taken with celebrities & continue to document my life in photos for say 5, 10, 15 years then I would one day have an interesting exhibition.
Q: People that come to see your exhibition would probably think that you’re obsessed with celebrities, are you?
R: No, not at all & I can totally understand why people would think that but it’s the opposite, to be honest I don't have much interest in celebrities at all, I don’t read celebrity magazines or go onto websites, I don’t care what they do in their private lives, the reason why I go out & get my photo taken with them is so I can continue to grow my exhibition, half the people that I get my photo with these days I don’t even know who they are but I know I have to get them because they are good for my exhibition, I let Kim Kardashian walk past me five times before I got a photo with her because I’m so out of touch with today’s celebrities that I didn’t know who she was.
I hang around with the younger fans/collectors now & they speak about who they want to meet & I’ve never heard of any of these celebrities, Im so out of touch but then again I call a lot of today’s celebrities ‘disposable celebrities, they’re the plastic celebrities that will dissolve in the future’, to me a ‘real celebrity’ were people like Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire & Bob Hope, how do you compare these names with today’s reality celebrities? You can’t & that’s why Im not obsessed with celebrities because all of my idols have passed so I just don’t care about today’s so called celebrities.
Q: Do you still enjoy meeting celebrities?
R: Yes & No, back in the 90’s I had a list of people that I wanted to meet, some of them I was lucky enough to meet & some of them I never met & they have now passed away, my list mostly had Hollywood legends on it, people like Bob Hope & Katharine Hepburn & Gregory Peck & as the years past my list got smaller & smaller & today I barely have a list, I still want to get my photo taken with those that are going to be remembered in history but today getting to those people is almost impossible. When I first started in the late 80’s there was a real innocence between fan & celebrity, there was almost an obligation that the celebrity had to give the fan an autograph or pose for a photo, these days celebrities use private jets to fly from one place to another, they use underground car park’s at the hotel so you don’t see them entering or leaving & if you do get to them they have a team of bodyguards & now in the last couple of years especially in Australia you have the hire car drivers acting as security guards as well, then on top of all of that if you do get to the celebrity they may not want to pose with you so the fun is slowly getting drained out of the ‘hobby’. Just recently Robert Pattinson was in town to promote a movie, he was at a restaurant, myself & two other collectors were waiting outside the restaurant for him to leave & when he did we were going to ask if we could have a photo with him, he is very ‘fan friendly’ and usually does it but the Australian security noticed that there were three ‘fans’ waiting & by the time he left there were twelve security guards standing in front of the three of us so we couldn’t get the chance to ask him, in fact he didn’t even know that we were waiting for him so its getting very hard these days to get people, its still fun when you get a photo that you haven’t gotten before but things have certainly changed over the years.
Q: Can you explain the Richard & Famous exhibition? Isn’t it just photos with you & celebrities?
R: If you strip it right back then it is just photos with me & celebrities but if you strip anything back to its most basic then it is what it is, if you think like that, a Picasso is just paint on canvas. Basically I’ve documented my life in photos for twenty four consecutive years, that itself is the basis of it, then you add the other layer to it which is the celebrity aspect, I’ve been photographed with people that are going to be remembered in the twentieth & the twenty first century, you see world leaders, pop icons, movie legends, the one hit wonders of the day & it takes you right up through to the present.
You see fashions come & go you see my life from a fifteen year old boy to a middle aged man, I’ve had people come up to me at the exhibition asking if it’s an exhibition based around Photoshop. But the great thing with the exhibition is that it has no language barriers, it will work in every country around the world, we all know what a celebrity is & we all know what self portraiture is, so it works from Australia to the US the UK to Asia and everywhere in between.
Q: Is there an end to the Richard & Famous project?
R: I’ve been meeting celebrities since 1989 which means I’ve been getting my photo taken with them for twenty four consecutive years, my plan is to do it for another year then obviously by then I would have documented my life in photos for twenty five consecutive years, then I will probably stop meeting celebrities for the sole purpose of adding the photos to the Richard & Famous exhibition. I will still do it as a hobby though but what I am really excited about is the exhibition can continue to be exhibited in galleries all around the world for many years to come & I really mean that. I think the Richard & Famous exhibition will get more & more fascinating as the years pass, can you imagine if someone did this exhibition say fifty or one hundred years ago? Imagine getting photos taken with people that were famous at the beginning of the twentieth century & exhibiting that exhibition today, those photos would have captured history & the people that made it, long after I’m gone I hope that my exhibition will continue to be enjoyed by people all around the world.
Sydney March 2012