For over sixty years the legendary Terry O’Neill has photographed almost every celebrity imaginable. Stars like Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, all the James Bonds (before Daniel Craig), and even politicans like Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela all enjoyed working with O’Neill, who had a bedazzling knack of capturing intimate moments of the world’s most mesmerising personalities.
O’Neill was born to Irish immigrants to London in 1938, and became a photographer rather out of luck. He took a job at Heathrow to become an air steward so he could play drums in America, but was assigned to the photography department instead.
His big break was a photograph he captured of a sleeping gentleman in the waiting area of the airport; the man turned out to be Rab Butler, then the home secretary of Britain, and the image was purchased and published in the front page of London’s Sunday Dispatch. He was promptly hired by editors at Fleet Street, and whisked off from Heathrow to the studios of the city.
For his first assignment, O’Neill was sent to photograph Laurence Olivier, and after that it was all easy. Within months he was shooting bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones without fear, which set the tone for his relationships with many stars. He was able to quickly establish trust and even friendship with many celebrities, allowing him access to some of Hollywood’s most hallowed names.
Now in his late 70’s, O’Neill doesn’t work much anymore, claiming that today’s stars just aren’t made like they used to be. In a 2014 interview with The Telegraph, O’Neill told them:
Hollywood’s portraits and their stories
Brigitte Bardot, 1968. One of O’Neill’s most famous photographs.
On his image of Brigitte Bardot:
Elizabeth Taylor in make-up for A Little Night Music, 1977.
Raquel Welch, 1968.
On Raquel Welch:
Monica Vitti at Pinewood Studios, 1966.
On Monica Vitti:
David Bowie, 1976.
On David Bowie:
Jean Shrimpton, 1964.
On Jean Shrimpton:
Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp, 1963.
On Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp:
Audrey Hepburn, 1967.
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, 1975.
Frank Sinatra, 1968.
On Frank Sinatra:
Joan Collins, 1970.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, 1971.
Rod Stewart, 1971.
On Rod Stewart:
Rex Harrison during A Flea in her Ear, 1968.
Faye Dunaway, 1977. Years later, O’Neill and Dunaway were married.