Terry O’Neill .
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Terry O’Neill As one of his first assignments I photographed a new, upcoming band…The Beatles at Abbey Road recording studios! This shot was the first time a pop group appeared on the front page of a British national newspaper. And the newspaper sold out. Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp, London, 1963.  This image established actor Stamp and Shrimpton, the first supermodel, as the icons of the Swinging 60s.  They were new, young and fresh – that was what the Sixties was all about. Frank Sinatra on the boardwalk, Miami, 1968.  This picture was taken on the first day of filming, as Frank walked from his hotel The Fontainebleu, to the set of The Lady in Cement.  This was the first time I ever saw Frank and I was astonished how the power of his presence mesmerized onlookers as he walked casually by. Audrey Hepburn with dove, St Tropez, 1967.  I was taking some portraits of Audrey on the set of Two for the Road when out of nowhere this dove landed on her shoulder. I was lucky to capture a couple of frames before it flew off. Brigitte Bardot, Spain, 1971. During rehearsals for The Legend of Frenchie King, I noticed that when the wind gusted there was the potential for a great picture. When the time came, I only had one frame left – one shot at it.  Suddenly the wind swept her hair across her face, and it was a knock-out. Kate Moss, London, 1993.  Another girl, like Naomi Campbell, who couldn't look bad on camera if she went six weeks without sleep and got dragged through a hedge backwards every day. Certain models like Kate just seem to hypnotise the lens. She can turn on every emotion for the camera from joy to rage and nail the shot. She's that rare type of woman, like Raquel Welch, who just knows what the camera wants. The Rolling Stones Tin Pan Alley, London, 1963.  After his success with The Beatles, emerging 60s pop groups clamoured to be photographed by O'Neill. One was called The Rolling Stones. But newspapers regarded the Stones as too ugly for publication. One however famously used Terry’s photograph alongside another of The Dave Clark Five and headlined it  ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Paul Newman and Lee Marvin, Denver, 1971.  Effortlessly cool, Newman and Marvin personify the swaggercool of the American film industry at the time. This shot was chosen as  the movie poster for the comedy Western, Pocket Money. They don’t make them like they used to. Dean Martin, Las Vegas, 1971.  Dean was a perfectionist, compulsively self-disciplined and obsessively organized, as you can see from the meticulously neat layout of his dressing room. I captured this side of the star by hiding behind a curtain and watching him prepare back stage before a performance.” Faye Dunaway, Los Angeles, 1977.  No image better captures both the allure and the loneliness of celebrity than this, of Faye Dunaway [Terry’s future wife] the morning after the night she won her Oscar for Network.  I wanted to capture a look of dazed confusion, the state of utter shock that Oscar winners enter when it dawns on them that their lives and bankability have changed forever. David Bowie, Diamond Dogs, London, 1974.  Taken as a publicity shoot for Diamond Dogs.  I started to shoot with the dog sitting quietly beside Bowie. But suddenly the Great Dane got over excited and reared six feet into the air barking madly. This terrified the life out of everyone in the studio, except Bowie who didn’t even flinch. Sean Connery, Las Vegas, 1971.  Sean Connery is pictured on the set of Diamonds Are Forever in Las Vegas, his image reflected in the Ford Mustang Bond car featured in the film. Muhammad Ali, Dublin.  Ali was battling depression and trying to psyche himself up for a fight with Alvin Lewis in Dublin. He was fearlessly focused when training, but he was a complex character, talking his head off one minute, and sullen the next! Sharon Tate, London, 1969.  Every body loved Sharon, not just because she was so beautiful; she was a really decent, caring girl, the kind you’d want to take home to meet your mother. I was shopping with Sharon for baby clothes four days before Charles Manson’s gang murdered her and I should have been at her house that night for a dinner party but I was ill. Raquel Welch on the cross, Los Angeles, 1970.  I wanted to symbolize the dilemma facing Welch as the female sex symbol of the decade - ‘crucified’ for her sexuality by the movie industry and the wider public who did not take her seriously as an actress. It was deemed too controversial for use at the time, and wasn’t published until 30 years later on the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine. I went to Hollywood when I was 24 as a freelance photographer. Being part of the London scene really opened doors for me over there. Fred Astaire and Shirley MacLaine threw a dinner for me. All they wanted to hear about was The Beatles and the Stones. That's when I thought maybe the whole thing would last. The most charismatic Hollywood star was Frank Sinatra. I was introduced to him through Ava Gardner. She wrote a letter of introduction for me to give to Frank when I met him. I don't know what the letter said but Frank opened the door to me and I never looked back. I worked with him for over 20 years, covering his concerts, rehearsals and films. Frank never queried anything I did. I could walk in whenever I liked and take photos of whatever I liked. Frank had this air about him; he really did light up a room when he walked in. The only person Frank looked up to was Dean Martin. I often caught Frank watching him out of the corner of his eye. It was because Dean Martin just wasn't interested in fame. He preferred to play golf all day. The female stars of the 1960s had much more individuality than they do today. Audrey Hepburn was the most photogenic - you couldn't take a bad shot of her. Brigitte Bardot was great too - a really great-looking woman. I shot a lot of international magazines covers, and I was really ahead of my time using 35mm. They hadn't seen that before in Hollywood. Then, towards the end of my time in the States, I started using a Hasselblad, doing studio shots. I changed my style, learning to use lights and work with colour. I remember meeting Annie Leibovitz on a job when I was shooting Elton John. She studied everything I did, and improved it. I didn't come back to England until the late 1980s. I married an American girl [the actress Faye Dunaway]. These days I just work with people I know, like Eric Clapton or Michael Caine. You can't take candid shots of today's celebrities because they are brands and their management demand control of the images. It means the public only gets to see what the stars want them to see - or what the paparazzi can snatch.  It also means the big name photographers today are more like art directors with teams of assistants and technicians to create imagery that is planned and orchestrated. It's really killed my style of up close and personal photography - honesty, immediacy and intimacy has been extinguished and any reality is distorted through the lens of stalker photographers. I think I was born in the most fortunate time ever. It was such a golden age for photographers. I doubt it will ever happen again.  Back in 1960, it never occurred to me that I could have a career as a photographer. I wanted to be a musician. When I started working for British Airways as a technical photographer, it was with the intention of becoming an air steward so I could fly to New York and be a jazz drummer. The job was interesting though, and it entailed going to art school once a week. We were given a homework assignment to take pictures of emotion. I went across to Heathrow airport with my Agfa Silette to capture people saying goodbye and crying. I shot a picture of the then Home Secretary, Rab Butler, asleep among a crowd of African chieftans. The editor at the [now defunct] Dispatch saw the shot and hired me to work at the airport every Saturday. In the old days, there was only one terminal and it was packed with people, including all the celebrities. I started working with the guy on the Daily Sketch who was hanging out with all the stars like Sophia Loren. I covered the airport for him so he could go off to the film sets. After a couple of months he died in a plane crash. I was offered his job and that was the start of my career. I did early shots of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones working for the Daily Sketch, and picked up photography along the way. I asked questions about lenses and effects and I just did it. Sixties London was so exciting. Every day I was doing something new - Mary Quant one day, Jean Shrimpton the next. And for once, we had the say. It was the poor people from the East End taking over from the toffs in the West End. People took us seriously. In a way, photographers like myself, David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, created the Sixties. It wasn't just who we were shooting, but the way we shot them. I was using 35mm, which was a whole new approach. Before that, portraits were done in studios using special lighting and hoods, which took a long time to set up. 35mm film brought a whole new candid look to photography because you could carry your camera around, and you had 36 shots on a roll. I didn't realise the impact of my work at the time. None of the Sixties stars took themselves seriously either. I used to hang out with all the rock 'n' rollers and the models at the Ad Lib Club. Mick Jagger joked about still singing at 40 - I mean he's 67 now! We honestly thought we'd have to get proper jobs. I was going to work in a bank, and Ringo Starr was going to do the same. Click to read more below ©Terry O'Neill All rights reserved MAY 2012 BACK ISSUE Back to current issue