A retrospective on fame and image by the photographer to the icons of the modern world, Terry O’Neill, celebrating his sixth decade behind the camera
February 27, 2019
London, 25 February 2019: This March, world-renowned photographer Terry O’Neill will be exhibiting a collection of 20 iconic images spanning his 60-year career, in celebration of his 81st Birthday. A private view of STARSTRUCK will be held on 7th March 2019 at the Chelsea Box Galleries, where O’Neill will be in attendance.
Unrivalled in skill and artistic prolificity, O’Neill has made a significant contribution to the Western art scene, capturing the world’s most loved, most celebrated, most notorious and most sorely mourned celebrities over the past decades. He has immortalised these venerated individuals, from David Bowie and Elton John to Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, the Queen to Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela to Tony Blair, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and every James Bond, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.
STARSTRUCK will launch a brand-new photograph from O’Neill’s vast archive of famous faces, never before seen: a portrait of Frank Sinatra, titled, Frank Sinatra, Miami Beach, 1968 (colour). Historically, O’Neill has cited Sinatra as the perfect sitter, and his relationship with the star has afforded him an encapsulating origin story:
“He was truly a great man. He was a one-off; a great musician. He allowed me to go wherever I wanted – backstage, on-stage, on-set to get the perfect shot.
When you see that crowd coming towards you, that was intimating [referencing his work, Frank Sinatra, Miami Beach, 1968]. That was the first shot I got – of them rounding the corner. They came right up to me, because I was snapping away, and I nervously handed Sinatra a letter. I was friendly with Ava Gardner, who was romantically linked to Sinatra at the time. Anyway, I told her, listen, I’m going to be working with your ex. And she went and wrote a letter and sealed it and told me to give it to Frank. So I did. He opened that letter, read it, looked at me and smiled. He said, ‘Boys, he’s OK, he’s with us now.’ And that was the start.”
The name of the exhibition itself is juxtaposing, as O’Neill claims to have never experienced the lepidopteran, tongue-twisting, giggling awe of what it is to be starstruck. Instead, STARSTRUCK denotes the provoked response in O’Neill’s viewers, who are able to, through his unique photographic perspective, get up close and personal with the stars of their time.
O’Neill demonstrates a sense of unflappable detachment in the company of the biggest names in show business, allowing him to achieve a level of intimacy with his ephemeral artistic subjects. O’Neill’s trustworthy magnetism saw the celebrities he spent so much time with seek his friendship, resulting in photographs that express the true personalities of these greats.
O’Neill learned from a young age that his role was to blend into the background and capture the intimate lives, the essences, of the famous, the wealthy and the beautiful. A professional photojournalist to the stars, O’Neill remains a background commentator; a Nick Carraway to the Jay Gatsbys of the stage and screen. Of this position within the lavish lifestyles of filmstars to rockstars, O’Neill says:
“I worked with Sinatra for decades, and during this time he taught me the most valuable lesson: Stay out of the way. He taught me that a top photographer should be ever-present, but never caught up in the lifestyle of their subjects.”
Even in this exhibition does O’Neill remain hidden. While the photographs showcase the icons of modern history, the name of the show comments on the condition of the audience. O’Neill remains obscured behind the flash of the camera, documenting the lives of the admired and their continued reception in the public domain.
Renowned celebrity photographer Terry O’Neill was one of the first to capture the ‘beautiful people’ of 60s London. His iconic portraits of royalty, and rock stars hang in museum collections and grace famous album covers.
Born in the East End of London Terry O’Neill first became a professional jazz musician at the age of 14. After doing his National service began his photographic career on Britain’s first tabloid the Daily Sketch (1960-3). Later O’Neill went freelance for Vogue, Paris Match and Rolling Stone. During the 1960s and 1970s he became one of the world’s most published photographers and good friends with actors Michael Caine and Richard Burton and married to the actress Faye Dunaway – of whom he took the iconic photo the morning after her Oscar win.
Access to this inner circle at play allowed him to capture his subjects at their ease, often in unusual settings, their posture abruptly angled or delicately inclined. O’Neill’s eye for the intriguing pioneered a new way of modern portraiture: a sultry Brigitte Bardot smoking a cigar, an innocent Audrey Hepburn with a dove just landed on her shoulder, David Bowie lying ‘zonked out’ on the floor.
For the past six decades, O’Neill has pursued this unique practice – nearly always shooting in black and white – capturing the likes of Amy Winehouse and Nelson Mandela, Mohammed Ali and Kate Moss.
In 2011, he was honoured with The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary medal ‘in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography’.
O’Neill has also published several books including N.A.R.T., Legends, Celebrity Breaking Stones and Runaways and Racers.
Terry O’Neill and Emma Moir, Director of Box Galleries 2018
A contemporary art gallery in Chelsea, London representing a stable of established artists. The focus of Box Galleries is to exhibit and raise the profile of their artists in their permanent gallery, at International Art Fairs as well as pop up shows around the country.
Box Galleries has built up an impeccable reputation for having access to artwork by some of the biggest names in the art world, such as Damien Hirst, Russell Young, Andy Warhol and Mackenzie Thorpe – just to name a few.
The gallery also offers a unique home approval service for clients who would like to try the artwork at home before they commit.
Box Galleries won Best Local Culture in Chelsea for the Time Out Love London Awards 2016.
A: Box Galleries, 402 King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0LJ
W: Box Galleries
10am-7pm, 7-31 March 2019
Private view: 7th March (by invitation only)
Exhibition price range: £2,000-£28,800
Admission is Free
Nearest Tube is South Kensington
Elton John – Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, 1975
Frank Sinatra, Miami Beach, 1968
David Bowie, Diamond Dogs, London, 1974
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Cote d’Azur, 1988
The Rolling Stones at Tin Pan Alley, London, 1963