Unseen images of David Bowie and more in new Terry O’Neill retrospective

Unseen images of David Bowie and more in new Terry O’Neill retrospective
(Image credit: Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images)

Terry O’Neill is one of the most recognizable names in photography. Many of his images of famous faces, including David Bowie, Elton John, Raquel Welch, The Beatles, to name but a few, have reached iconic status, and thanks to a new retrospective exhibition we can enjoy a unique collection of his work.  

Featuring rare or previously unseen images of the aforementioned popular icons, in addition to outtakes from some of his most famous Brigitte Bardot and Faye Dunaway shoots, Terry O’Neill: The Vintage Collection offers a unique insight into the legendary artist's creative process.

Over a period of five years his archive of two million negatives has been revisited, unearthing rare, vintage prints of some of history’s most pivotal celebrity moments. Of particular interest, several signed prints will be revealed exclusively for the new exhibition, which have never been seen before. 

The contact sheet from Terry O’Neill's famous shoot with David Bowie, with the musician's favorite image highlighted (Image credit: Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images)

O’Neill's death has added even more significance to his vast collection of work, since his style and images can never again be reproduced with genuine authenticity. And the new show will be of particular interest to fans of fellow departed legend, Bowie. 

It includes a rare contact sheet of images from his now legendary 1974 photoshoot (the only known print in existence), which is signed by both O'Neill and Bowie himself. O'Neill described the singer as his "creative muse" and captured on film the progression of his ever evolving stage persona, from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and beyond.

The promotion shoot for Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour was conducted in Los Angeles and shows the star smoking, in a yellow suit. Interestingly on the contact sheet are the initials ‘DB’ in Chinagraph, indicating Bowie’s favorite image from the shoot, which was later given to him as a gift by the photographer. 

O’Neill's shoot with actress Faye Dunaway  (Image credit: Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images)

The exhibition also features contact sheets from other historically important shoots, including one with actress Faye Dunaway, who was O'Neill's girlfriend during that period. This was shot in 1977 and depicts Dunaway lounging by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, at dawn, the morning after receiving an Academy Award. Another shows a series of outtakes from the iconic image of Brigitte Bardot smoking a cigar with the wind blowing through her hair.

Furthermore, the Retrospective also unveils a 1975 shot of Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie in Los Angeles. The story goes that Taylor was so desperate to meet Bowie that so she asked O’Neill – who 'knew everybody' – to bring him to lunch, because she wanted him to star in her next film. 

Bowie was was four hours late for the lunch, leaving the Hollywood superstar fuming – but due to her love for O’Neill, Taylor still agreed to pose with Bowie for a shoot. This produced some stunningly sultry images of the pair but, while he won Taylor over, Bowie did not get the role in the film – and the images from the shoot remained buried until it was rediscovered by O'Neill himself, four decades later.

The Beatles with Laurence Olivier (Image credit: Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images)

A further incredible outtake is from a 1971 press shoot for the comedy western Pocket Money, shot in Arizona and starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin. According to O'Neill Marvin was "mostly indisposed due to alcohol" during production and refused to leave his trailer, though he made an exception for the photographer. 

Marvin was significantly larger in stature than Newman, but O'Neill encouraged him to bend slightly, which made both actors appear a similar size in the images when Newman stood up straight. 

The Beatles with Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Elton John and Davey Johnstone, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Liza Minelli, Raquel Welch, Robert Redford and Richard Helms and Roger Daltrey bolster the star-studded lineup of the exhibition.

Paul Newman and Lee Marvin (Image credit: Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images)

For 60 years Terry O'Neill forged an unrivaled position in the ranks of iconic, British photographers, capturing history through the faces of the most famous people of each generation. 

He built enduring relationships with everybody from Frank Sinatra, Michael Caine, Raquel Welch and Faye Dunaway – whom he married. He holds the title for being the only photographer to have photographed every actor to play James Bond, and every British Prime Minister from Winston Churchill to Gordon Brown. 

He has no fewer than 75 portraits in London's National Portrait Gallery alone, and photographed now legendary artists such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at the beginning of their careers. 

Terry O’Neill: The Vintage Collection runs at the gallery in Hampstead, London from 15-29 September. Visit zebraonegallery.com for more details.

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Peter Fenech

As the Editor for  Digital Photographer magazine, Peter is a specialist in camera tutorials and creative projects to help you get the most out of your camera, lens, tripod, filters, gimbal, lighting and other imaging equipment.

After cutting his teeth working in retail for camera specialists like Jessops, he has spent 11 years as a photography journalist and freelance writer – and he is a Getty Images-registered photographer, to boot.

No matter what you want to shoot, Peter can help you sharpen your skills and elevate your ability, whether it’s taking portraits, capturing landscapes, shooting architecture, creating macro and still life, photographing action… he can help you learn and improve.