From the 1960s and all the way up until his death in 2019 Terry O’Neill photographed numerous film stars and Hollywood celebrities. His career as a photographer began at the English tabloid newspaper the Daily Sketch. A few years later he moved on and worked as a freelance photographer for magazines such as Vogue, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and Vanity Fair. With his natural and spontaneous approach, Terry O’Neill broke with the prevailing style of the 1950s and quickly became popular. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he was one of the most published photographers in the world.
O’Neill’s camera has captured everyone from rock stars and politicians to royalty. With his personal and sensitive touch, O’Neill’s portraits are often different to how his subjects are normally portrayed. His attitude in regards to his published commissions was always: “I want my pictures to tell a story – not sell a story”.
O’Neill photographed the Rolling Stones and the Beatles as early as 1963 when they were young musicians just on the verge of a breakthrough. Later he followed both Elton John and David Bowie backstage. During the late 1970s, he began more and more to take pictures in Hollywood. He both worked and socialised in private with actors and musicians, as well as celebrities. He was, for example, a close friend of Frank Sinatra and would follow him throughout his career, both publicly and privately.
O’Neill was married to the actor Faye Dunaway between 1983 and 1987. In 1977, the day after she had won an Oscar (Academy Award) for Best Actress, for the film Network, O’Neill took the famous image that in many ways has come to epitomise Hollywood life. The photo shows Dunaway seated in a decadent pose in front of the pool of The Beverly Hills Hotel. The image is part of The National Portrait Gallery’s collection, which holds as many as eighty of O’Neill’s photographs.
In 2011 Terry O’Neill was awarded The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and, in 2019, he was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his contribution to photography.