Fotografiska New York present Stars, the largest U.S. exhibition and first New York museum solo show of the late British photographer Terry O’Neill (1938-2019). The curation of 110 works on view spans six decades (1960s through 2010s) of O’Neill’s fine art photography, from crisp portraiture to playful behind-the-scenes snapshots.
“Name a global celebrity from the second half of the twentieth century, and chances are that person probably posed for Terry O’Neill’s camera,” said Johan Vikner, Director of Global Exhibitions at Fotografiska and one of the exhibition’s organizers. “No one was able to get as close to the stars as Terry O’Neill. From the 1960s until his death in 2019, he took portraits of countless Hollywood stars, music legends, fashion icons and athletes, earning him the title as one of the world’s most esteemed photographers. Stars showcases O’Neill’s extraordinary ability to capture fame from the frontlines.”
The trajectory of Terry O’Neill’s photo practice began in earnest in 1960 with his role as a photographer for the English newspaper The Daily Sketch. At this title, he documented the emergence of British youth culture which eventually led him to photograph for leading publications like Vogue, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. The 1960s brought O’Neill’s breakout, shooting rock stars to royalty in images that would go on to characterize the “Swinging Sixties.” The exhibition’s earliest work includes fresh-faced and then-emerging names such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and for several years he accompanied famous musicians backstage on tours including Elton John and David Bowie.
“Terry O’Neill had his breakthrough as a photographer around the same time as pop culture was exploding in the 1960s and became close to many of these stars before they had become famous,” said Vikner. “This enabled him to capture not just gorgeous portraits but also closer, more candid photos that showed the human side of things. O’Neill’s natural ability to take candid photographs of subjects in unconventional settings with such breadth remains unmatched.”
O’Neill spent a significant amount of time on movie sets enabling him to preciously capture “unscripted moments”. Innocent and fun, these images include Audrey Hepburn playing cricket in 1966 during a break from filming Two for the Road in France; Sean Connery on set as James Bond in 1971 playing golf on ‘the moon’ during the filming of Diamonds Are Forever; and Brigitte Bardot with a cigarette in 1971 taken on the set of Les Pétroleuses in Spain. In images such as these O’Neill managed to take otherwise ordinary and mundane moments and imbue them with allure.
Stars also highlights O’Neill’s extensive documentation of the 007 film franchise through the years, including Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig as well as “Bond girls” such as Jane Seymour and Izabella Scorupco. Said O’Neill: “The real secret to why it’s been so successful for so many years is that, with each decade, each James Bond, they have really kept up with the times. Sean Connery in the 1960s was cool and classic; he really fits that decade. Roger Moore in the 1970s added more humor; very Cary Grant. In the 1990s, Pierce Brosnan came aboard and added a real style. Then Daniel Craig―he’s the perfect modern Bond.”
One of O’Neill’s most famous photographs depicts the actress Faye Dunaway sitting poolside at The Beverly Hills Hotel at dawn after the 1977 Oscars night, at which she had won the Academy Award for Best Actress. O’Neill once reflected on the image: “I wanted to capture that moment—the morning after—the moment the actor wakes up and it dawns on them that, overnight, they’ve not only just become a star, but also a millionaire. This is that moment of realization.” O’Neill would later marry Dunaway, from 1983 to 1987.
In the 1970s, O’Neill’s social circle grew to include some of the era’s biggest names, and his work of the era evokes a great sense of intimacy fueled by his skill of forming close professional relationships with his subjects. Examples in the show are an image of the first time David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor met (in 1974, at Hollywood director George Cukor’s house in Beverly Hills), and a tender 1964 portrait of Liza Minelli and her mother Judy Garland.
Stars at Fotografiska New York is curated by Johan Vikner (Director of Global Exhibitions, Fotografiska), Amanda Hajjar (Director of Exhibitions, Fotografiska New York), and Phoebe Weinstein (Exhibitions Manager, Fotografiska New York).
Terry O’Neill : Stars
Until September 16th, 2023
281 Park Ave S,
New York, NY 10010