Simone Lueck: The Once and Future Queens

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The Once and Future Queens
The Once and Future QueensPhotography Simone Lueck

Today, Liverpool's Open Eye Gallery sees the opening of a new exhibition celebrating and questioning the mutating nature of fame, curated by Martin Parr, including the work of LA based photographer Simone Lueuck

So much happened in 2011 that it is impossible to apply a single epithet – it was the year of the Arab Spring, the year of the London riots, the year of the collapse of the News of the World, the year of deepening financial gloom. At the same time, it was also the year when the concept of celebrity changed once again, continuing, due to Twitter, the press and reality television shows, to mutate and splinter. As 2012 dawns, the most anticipated and highly praised film of the year so far is silent feature The Artist, a paeen to the old-world glamour of Hollywood movie stars; celebrity as it used to be. And it is at this moment that the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool has commissioned celebrated Magnum photographer Martin Parr to curate an exhibition that riffs on the changing nature of fame.

The show is a double-hander featuring the works of Australian Richard Simpkin and LA based Simone Lueck, two photographers whose output is the result of two very different obsessions. Simpkin unconsciously embarked on his series, "Richard and Famous" in 1988, without any thought other than getting his photo taken with Bros after their Sydney concert. Now, 24-years later, he has taken over 2000 photographs of himself with celebrities ranging from Michael Hutchence to Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson to Robert Pattinson, a series that marks the passing of time in his face, as well as in the celebrities worshipped in over the course of the decades. Similarly, Lueck's work emerged from a fascination with celebrity. Living in Los Angeles, in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, she sought and photographed older women enacting their long abandoned dreams of silver-screen stardom. Dressed and directed entirely by the women themselves, who were recruited via a personal ad on Craigslist, Lueck's pictures drip with joy, wit, nostalgia and a tinge of sadness. They are filled with freedom of expression, yet at the same time they are deeply moving; a representation of the many broken dreams that litter the pavements of Tinseltown. Here, on the day of the show opening, AnOther talks to Simone Lueck about Los Angeles, fantasy and the nature of fame and celebrity.

This series is about Hollywood - is living in LA inextricably bound into your work?
Los Angeles is a fascinating place to live. It's filled with people who want to be famous. There is also a pervasive feeling of old Hollywood and vintage glamour. I wondered if there were glamorous older women who had always wanted to be in pictures but had never been. I placed an advert on the internet soliciting older women to pose as glamorous movie stars because i wanted to see what these unfulfilled fantasies might look like.

This series involved total immersion into the worlds of your subjects, who ultimately had control over the structuring and aesthetics of the images - could you talk more about your interest in creating shots so inherently led by the subjects themselves?
The work is about fulfilling unfulfilled desires and looking at dormant fantasies. The shots are inherently led by the subjects because the work is about the subjects themselves. It wouldn't work and other way. The women were required to provide their own hair, make-up and wardrobe and also the fantasy. My role as the photographer was to facilitate the fantasy. I documented the fantasy performance. I didn't direct it or glamorize it, I simply made the pictures.

What do you think of the juxtaposition with Richard's work?
The juxtaposition with Richard's work is fantastic. On the one hand, you have famous people not being famous, and on the other hand you have non-famous people playing the part of celebrity, i.e. being famous. It forms a kind of complete circle.

What did you learn while working on this exhibition?
The curator Martin Parr has fashioned an exhibition that really makes me think a lot about celebrity. Fame is fleeting, which is displayed in both bodies of work. In "The Once and Future Queens", fame is found in the performance itself, and in Richard's work, he's turned the tables on fame. By asserting himself, he has become the celebrity and the others are just real people. It's fascinating.

Text by Tish Wrigley

Richard Simpkin and Simone Lueck: Richard & Famous, curated by Martin Parr, opens today at Open Eye Gallery, running until March 18 2012.