Terry oneill the vintage collection contact sheet of Faye Dunaway

The Vintage Collection

Terry O’Neill Exhibition

September 15th – 29th

Terry O’Neill Exhibition, The Vintage Collection, Terry was born on July 30th, 1938, in the East End of London. His career as a photographer evolved by chance from his original dreams of becoming a jazz drummer.

Leaving school early aged fourteen and after finishing his national service, his ambition was to travel to the States to study with the greatest drummers of their time, he thought the best way to travel to the U.S.A would be to get a job as an air steward for BOAC.

There were no jobs for stewards they suggested he took an apprenticeship in their photographic unit. As part of this, he had to attend an art school he then began photographing people in the arrival and departure lounges for his coursework creating an interest in photojournalism.

This led to O’Neill embarking on freelance work at London airport, working with his Agfa Silette camera he looked out for interesting subjects in the passenger terminal. 

The First Sale

O’Neill’s first scoop was a photograph of a rather distinguished-looking gentleman asleep, which turned out to be R.A.B Butler, who at the time was the home secretary for Harold Macmillan’s government.

The picture was sold and appeared on the cover of the Sunday dispatch, the editor offered Terry O’Neill a job as a reportage photographer at Heathrow. This was followed by three years in Fleet Street, with Terry O’Neill at twenty-one, the youngest pop photographer in Fleet Street.

Of course, one thing led to another and Terry O’Neill quickly became known. He was one of a group of talented young hip photographers who helped create the photographic icons of the 1960s it was these guys that were certainly instrumental and part of the buzz that became Swinging London. The peer group that emerged in this decade alongside Terry O’Neill included David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Brian Duffy from the East End, with Patrick Litchfield and Lewis Morley hailing from a completely different background.

Two Million Negatives

In the last five years, his archive of two million negatives has been revisited, unearthing rare, vintage prints of some of history’s most pivotal celebrity moments. Thirteen particularly exciting, signed prints will be unveiled for this exhibition, which runs at the Hampstead gallery from 15 – 29 September. Many of these have never been seen before and with the death of the photographer last year, his work can no longer be reproduced in terms of chemistry, paper quality, or authenticity.

The Vintage Collection

The show includes a unique contact sheet of a now-legendary 1974 David Bowie shootsigned by both Bowie and O’Neill, who described the singer as his “creative muse” and captured his shapeshifting evolution from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and beyond.

The Los Angeles shoot was to promote Bowie’s Diamond Dogs Tour and shows the star smoking, in a yellow suit.

Hollywood Superstars

The exhibition also features a 1975 shot of Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie in Los Angeles. Taylor desperate to meet Bowie, asked O’Neill – to bring him to lunch, Taylor wanted him to star in her next film. Bowie was four hours late for the lunch, which happened to leave the Hollywood superstar fuming, when he did arrive Bowie won Taylor over during the lunch and the fantastic shoot took place. Terry eventually released the images some 40 years later.

Another image shows an out-take from press shots for 1971 comedy western Pocket Money, shot in Arizona and starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin. O’Neill revealed that Marvin was mostly indisposed due to alcohol during the making of the film and refused to come out of his trailer. But he made an exception for O’Neill. As Marvin was a much larger man than Newman, O’Neill persuaded him to bend slightly at the knee and encouraged Newman to stretch up straight so that they both appeared the same size, in the shoot.

Other stars included in the exhibition include The Beatles with Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Elton John and Davey Johnstone, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Liza Minelli, Henry Cooper and Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Robert Redford and Richard Helms, Sammy Davis Jr. and Roger Daltrey.

60 years of Photography

Over six decades, O’Neill earned a place atop the pantheon of history-making, iconic British photographers. He forged long lasting relationships with everybody from Frank Sinatra, Michael Caine, Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway – who he married – and is the only photographer to have photographed every actor to play James Bond and every British Prime Minister from Winston Churchill to Gordon Brown. He captured The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at the beginning of their careers and documented the most influential film, music and political faces of our time.

Terry O’Neill

The Vintage Collection Exhibition

September 15 -29th

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