Iconic photographer Terry O'Neill dies aged 81
Iconic photographer Terry O’Neill, who was one of the chroniclers of the swinging 60s, has died aged 81.
Ellie Brown, director of editorial licensing at Iconic Images, which licensed O’Neill’s pictures, said that he “passed away” on Saturday night “quietly at home after a long illness”.
During the 1960s, one of the heydays of the art of photography, he photographed a series of celebrities and helped create the sense that London was one of the coolest places to be on the planet.
His subjects included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Judy Garland, Michael Caine, Terence Stamp, Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot.
He continued taking images of high profile figures over the next five decades, developing close working relationships with pop stars like Elton John and David Bowie.
In his lifetime, he also snapped members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, and several statesmen and women including Nelson Mandela.
Among his most recent work was an image of Amy Winehouse at the height of her fame in 2008.
Ms Brown said: “Terry was a class act, quick witted and filled with charm.
“Anyone who was lucky enough to know or work with him can attest to his generosity and modesty. As one of the most iconic photographers of the last 60 years, his legendary pictures will forever remain imprinted in our memories as well as in our hearts and minds.”
Born in 1938, in Heston, west London, Terence Patrick O’Neill grew up expecting to become a priest but ended up initially becoming a drummer.
He sought work at the BOAC airline, hoping to be able to travel to get session work around the world, but started taking pictures of people arriving and departing – work that got him a job at a newspaper.
He went on to take pictures that defined an era.
He later said: “I was asked to go down to Abbey Road Studios and take a few portraits of this new band. I didn’t know how to work with a group – but because I was a musician myself and the youngest on-staff by a decade – I was always the one they’d ask.
“I took the four young lads outside for better light. That portrait ran in the papers the next day and the paper sold out. That band became the biggest band in the world; The Beatles.”
Other stars he photographed, whose portraits became famous in themselves, included Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Shrimpton, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford.
Like other famed celebrity photographers of his time, he moved in the circles of the rich and famous and ended up marrying Faye Dunaway, one of his most famous subjects.
A picture of the Hollywood actress, one of a series he took the day after she won an Oscar for her role in the 1976 movie Network, with papers scattered around a table on which a statuette stands as she lounges next to a swimming pool, is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
By the time he died, his works of art were hanging in more than 40 galleries and museums around the world.
In 2011 he was awarded the Royal Photographic Society Centenary Medal in recognition of his contribution to the art of photography and earlier this year he was awarded a CBE.
Robin Morgan, the former editor of The Sunday Times Magazine and CEO of Iconic Images said: “No other photographer worked the front line of fame for so long and with such panache…
“All dropped their guard to his mischief, charm and wit. It explains why so many of his subjects… remained lifelong friends.”