It was an ordinary day in 1959 when Terry O'Neill took a chance photograph of the then Home Secretary asleep at Heathrow Airport which would change his life forever. Snapped up by a newspaper, it would set him along the path to stardom as one of the most influential photographers of our time.
Since then he has captured the most famous faces in contemporary culture, such as Brigitte Bardot, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, who loved his spontaneous and informal approach to shooting them. His images have catapulted many a rock star or screen goddess into mega stardom, capturing them at definitive moments in their careers, in press shots or more intimate settings.
"I've spent the past two years going through my archive, literally hundreds of boxes of negatives, and I was amazed how many iconic images there were that I've never printed or shown," O'Neill remarked during an interview earlier this year.
"Frankly I'd forgotten I'd taken so many pictures of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles when they were just emerging new bands - or the young kids who were becoming the faces of the swinging 60s. They're showing here for the first time and it bought back memories - we were all just kids together, none of us knew we were going to be famous or successful. Then I found a "lost shoot" I did backstage with Led Zeppelin in America, and great shots of some of the movie legends like Liz Taylor. It was like opening a time capsule I buried 50 years ago."
Tomorrow an exhibition of O'Neill's screen sirens and rock rebels opens at Proud Chelsea. The show includes never previously exhibited images from Terry's archive, as well as many of the iconic shots that catapulted him to fame.
Terry O’Neill: Screen Sirens & Rock Rebels at Proud Chelsea 8 December 2011 to 22 January 2012, www.proudonline.co.uk