Few have made such an indelible stamp on the Western art scene as photographer Terry O’Neill. Unrivalled in skill and artistic prolificacy, he has turned his lens on the most celebrated, notorious and public individuals of the last century.
This week, O’Neill will be open an exhibition of 20 iconic images spanning his 60-year career — in celebration of his 81st birthday. The show, titled STARSTRUCK, will run until March 31 at Chelsea Box Galleries — and we’ve managed to get a hold of five of the iconic images being hung.
From Sinatra, at the top of this article, to Bowie above, O’Neill has shot everyone who’s ever been anyone. Elton John and Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, the Queen and Winston Churchill. Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and every James Bond, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.
And STARSTRUCK will not only feature images of these icons, but unseen work also. In fact, that colourised Sinatra — who O’Neill calls “a one-off; a great musician” — has never been exhibited before.
Elton John, too, a huge star in his own right, also features in the exhibition. But, although O’Neill has shot nearly all of the biggest names in recent memory, he reveals that the name of his latest show is something of a juxtaposition: as he has never experienced the lepidopteran, tongue-twisting, giggling awe of what it is to be starstruck.
Instead, STARSTRUCK is meant to mirror 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.
Even film stars, like Michael Caine and Steve Martin above, were captured in O’Neill’s inimitable style. The photographer 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.
As a professional photojournalist to the stars, O’Neill remains a background commentator; a Nick Carraway to the Jay Gatsbys of the stage and screen — but an integral part of the furniture in circles of A-listers and rockstars.
Just take this shot of The Rolling Stones. Every image demonstrates O’Neill’s sense of unflappable detachment in the company of the biggest names in show business, allowing him to achieve an unparalleled level of intimacy with his ephemeral artistic subjects.
It’s a trustworthy magnetism that saw the celebrities he spent so much time with seek his friendship, resulting in photographs that express the true personalities of these greats.
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