November 22nd marked the 18th anniversary of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence passing. Richard Simpkin (now an award-winning photographer) who befriended the INXS frontman back in 1990 has released a book which is a collection of photographs and memorabilia taken by himself over the years that they were together as a tribute for Michael, the Hutchence family and fans.
Your collection of photographs in ‘Michael In Pictures’ is incredible, what has led you to finally publish what is essentially a record now which is respectfully displayed and put together for public viewing?
The week after Michael passed away I was going through my photos that I had taken of him during our 8 year friendship and I had hundreds of photos so I thought about doing a coffee table/tribute book together to celebrate his life & our time together, its taken 18 years but I needed to get it right which I finally did.
For those who may not know the background to this book and your passion for photography, please could you give a brief explanation as to how this compendium came to be?
I first met Michael in 1989 when I was 16 and spent 5 months hanging out at the recording studios with INXS whilst they recorded their ‘X’ album, during that time I discovered that I wanted to become a photographer. Michael took me under his wing and would let me practice my photography on him which I did for 8 years. Since then I have continued to do photography & have now had 4 books published, had numerous exhibitions all around the world. Also have met and photographed everyone from Audrey Hepburn and Nelson Mandela to Taylor Swift and Brad Pitt.
Do you think you could have anticipated such a positive reaction from fans who see this book as a hugely fresh and candid insight into the life of this musical legend – through the eyes of another fan?
When I was putting the book together I was hoping that people would enjoy it. It was all very positive so I knew that I was on the right track. Because I am also a fan myself I knew what other fans wanted and I think that I have achieved that with this book.
The encouragement from Michael has clearly inspired you to pursue your ambitions in the field of photography. How do you feel when you look back at those years you spent with him and the band?
If you watch the movie ‘Almost Famous’ I was kind of like that kid in the movie where I was just a kid hanging out with the biggest rock n roll band in the world. It was amazing and a whole lot of fun.
Are there any of the images included in your book which particularly stand out for you? Any favourites, and why?
A photo that I took of Michael in 1990 stands out because it was a late night at the studio and he took just me and my friend inside the studio for a private tour. He took us into the kitchen and I snapped a very cool photo of him there whilst he had his arms open, that photo brings back some nice memories.
‘Michael In Pictures’ is dedicated to Michael, his father Kelland (‘Kell’ who sadly passed away in 2002) and his beloved daughter Tiger Lily. Do you see this is as a special gift and tribute for Tiger Lily who may not have seen these pictures before?
Yes very much so, she never got to know her dad and I hope she gets to know a bit more about her amazing dad through this book. It’s dedicated to her as well.
Regarding how the media portrayed Michael as a person, was it an unfair and exaggerated, not like the person you knew at all?
Absolutely, Michael was a very sweet and caring person who wore his heart on his sleeve. The media in the UK tore him to shreds.
When you decided to put this selection of shots together, what was the process like of choosing which ones to include and those you felt were best to keep private (if any)?
I just had to find the right balance of photos and stories. There’s hundreds of photos in the book and all of them have a great story to go with them.
Two days before the passing of Michael you had met him, what was your reaction to learning of his death?
Like everyone else I was in total shock.
It has been 18 years since the tragic death, does it still surprise you to see the support and legacy of Michael and INXS carried on by the fans?
Not really, INXS’s music is so amazing and millions of fans around the world love hearing those great songs – many of which Michael wrote the lyrics to.
If you had the opportunity to, what would you say to Michael now?
You can buy the book here:
Keeping up to date with Richard