Everybody knows and loves the photographer from Terry O’Neill Rare & Unseen – even if they perhaps do not always realise it. A classic image of Bridget Bardot with hair blowing across her eyes; an unperturbed David Bowie losing the limelight to a rearing Great Dane; a morning-after shot of Faye Dunaway lounging by a Hollywood pool with her Oscar statuette. These are all of course by Terry O’Neill.
Now, for the first time in Terry O’Neill Rare & Unseen – A Portfolio of Vintage Prints, O’Neill selects a range from his huge archive. This remarkable book collects hundreds of these rare images, accompanied by quotes from many of the subjects. These include Kate Moss, Keith Richards, Elton John, Raquel Welch, Gary Kemp and many more.
It is amazing that O’Neill almost fell into photography by accident. His true love at 17 was jazz drumming, and he decided he should ‘cross the pond’ to further his career and applied to be a steward with BOAC. He got a job at the photographic unit, quickly getting hooked on photography.
According to O’Neill, in the early sixties nobody in Fleet Street wanted to interact with emerging bands, such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and this left him to capture the swinging 60s with real freedom.
For the next 50 years he led the field in portrait photography. Anybody who was anybody inevitably ended up infront of O’Neill’s lens: The Queen, Nelson Mandela, Elton John, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Brigitte Bardot – think of a name and O’Neill will have taken their portrait.
He says: “I just try to take pictures that tell a story – perhaps in a candid and unconventional way. I think you can either see a picture or you can’t. I just capture the moment as it is.”
At the dawn of the 1960s, physical prints were the norm. O’Neill kept as many as he could. “I just kept everything,” he says. “I don’t know why. Back then, there wasn’t really a reason to keep them. Photos were used straight away and then I just moved on to the next assignment. No one was thinking these would be of interest to the collectors down the line, let alone fifty years later.”
Audrey Hepburn looks uneasy posing by the pool (she hated water) on the set of Two for the Road. A contact sheet of 20 images shows Ursula Andress in various states of dress (and undress) on the set of the spoof Casino Royale. Peter Sellers & Roger Moore mock fight on a tennis court in Beverly Hills. Elizabeth Taylor kneeling in fall foliage in a flowery dress could have been shot by William Eggleston. The list of interesting and beautifully presented images seems endless
Terry O’Neill: Rare & Unseen is a very special insight in to the contents of this remarkable archive. A very generous 240 pages – generously sized too – allows plenty of space to show some wonderful unseen images alongside less perfect shots, including contact sheets that provide insight in to his working methods and relationships with his subjects.
Images are typically presented using just the right side of double page spreads so there is lots of space for the images to breathe. The 32cm square pages are also ideal for photographs from O’Neill’s favoured medium format: Hasselblad 500CM. Published by Iconic Images and, regular collaborators, ACC Art Books the quality of presentation and production is exemplary as usual.
To purchase visit Terry O’Neill: Rare & Unseen – A Portfolio of Vintage Prints
For our curated recommendations for Art, Culture, Design and Architecture books visit the CELLOPHANELAND* bookstore