Portfolio: Terry O'Neill


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The Independent Culture

He saw them come and he saw them go. He was there as Mick, Keith and Bill sauntered down London's Baker Street in 1963, unnoticed and unmolested – the year before the Stones would break it big. He was there to capture a 16-year-old Lesley Hornby, just as the newly minted "Face of '66" was reinventing herself as Twiggy.

He was there, too, to shoot one of the late, great Marlene Dietrich's final performances, in 1975. "She disappeared into her Paris apartment shortly after and lived the rest of her life as a recluse." And he was there in 1978, to shoot The Who, just weeks before Keith Moon, unable to disguise the weight he had gained from drugs and alcohol, was to die.

He is, of course, Terry O'Neill, the East End boy done good, who left school at the age of 14 with dreams of becoming a jazz drummer, lucked into a career as a photographer, and subsequently became one of the world's most influential cultural archivists with his intimate portrayal of the biggest stars of the past half-century.

It is that sense of intimacy that is made manifest in a new retrospective, Screen Sirens & Rock Rebels, which the photographer collated by spending two years rifling through hundreds of boxes of old negatives. Digging up favourite snaps, he found several that have never been exhibited before, including those seen here of Ava Gardner, The Who and the Rolling Stones. It is a who's who of the A-list through the ages, from a man who made moments iconic – and in doing so became iconic himself.

Terry O'Neill: Screen Sirens & Rock Rebels is at Proud Galleries, London SW1 (proud.co.uk), until 22 January