Sunday's Photography Book Review: "Thierry O'Neill: the A-Z fame"

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

It's really difficult to make a choice when one has so many photography‘s books home.. where shall I start from? Which should be next? I was looking around my house this Sunday, when I was finally able to decide, all of a sudden, thank to this amazing picture my husband and I decided to buy some years ago: Brigitte Bardot, by Terry O'Neill. The funny thing is that years after, when attending a photography exhibition in Rotterdam, we happened to find in front of us on a table Terry O'Neill's book: "Terry O'Neill: the A-Z fame" with, on its cover, the same iconic shot of "our" Brigitte Bardot! We could not not buy the book of course ;-)..

So here I am again and this Sunday I am exploring for you another great photography book in the hope that the ones who still don't know Terry O'Neill will get more interested and will attend his exhibition next time should it be organized somewhere in the world, or will buy a copy of one of his books or will just surf the internet to look for more information around this photographer of the 50's, born in London in 1938, who moved to the US in 1966 and who depicted an incredible amount of celebrities, from Amy Winehouse to Nelson Mandela, Mick Jagger to Kate Moss, from Raquel Welch to Richard Barton, Elton John to Bono..

Not many know that Terry was a former jazz drummer, who however always dreamt about a different life than the one he had during his childhood. So he was very well determined to live Europe and got his first job around the 1950's in the photographic department of the old London airport now Heathrow, where he was printing pictures of the interiors of airplanes. This job got incredible interesting when Terry started taking pictures of people in the VIP lounges and at the airport, trying to get them during normal moment, or waiting, and trying to get the "decisive moment" - like Henri Cartier-Bresson would call it. As at that time VIP's where travelling with regular passengers, it was easier than today to meet celebrities as well as to take pictures of them. Terry appreciated a lot the natural lighting ending up in his pictures thanks to the big windows present at the airport, the result was good and he could see it. One day 1 picture he made was immediately requested by a guy working for a newspaper and everything started then for Terry.

It was actually thanks to Sir Michael Kane that Terry was first introduced to the world of celebrities and his appeal, look and English accent helped him to get noticed, together with, of course, his great photography. The different touch Terry O'Neill has in his photography is the simplicity of the moments in which he depicts celebrities: no sets, no set ups, no posing. Terry was there shooting when no one would notice, resulting in portraits which have natural light, natural postures, rarely look at the camera, seem to be present somewhere else.. But in an age when studio portrait was the norm, Terry made of his portraits some innovative reportage photography. Very soon, Terry realized that his dream to go to America to improve his jazz knowledge could maybe wait as his photography was being noticed. He liked the upfront position he could take as a photographer compared to the backward position he was having when playing in the band. He was offered a job to shoot celebrities as they came in at the airport, managing to become incredible talented in shooting interesting moments of airport life. But the moment to work in the US arrived around the 1960's when Terry produced film posters for the Hollywood studios, touring with famous actors and spending a lot of time if different places in the US, like in Vegas with Elvis Presley. Due to this amazing network of celebrities and actors, Terry O'Neill became the natural choice of editors and art directors when having to depict celebrities, Terry could even help these people to get to the right celebrities.

Well, here are some amazing shots I made out of the book, I mean the shoots are not good, the pictures are.. I intentionally make bad iPhone shoots in my SPBR's (Sunday's photography book reviews) as I want to make clear I am using materials of others, talking about others and I do not intend to use books material more than for few minutes of reviews in the hope more people will build some knowledge around these famous and professional photographers... In any case, here some pictures as promised:

Terry O'Neill has been an incredible productive photographer as he did not only photography but collaborated as well with many magazines, producing around 300 covers per year for magazines likes Paris Match, GQ, Vaniry Fair, Stern, People etc..

Well guys, here it ends my quick book review and I hope I was able to give in few minutes a good idea of this interesting book on a paparazzi of the world of celebrities and photography.

If you don't know Terry O'Neill yet, surf more about this famous photographer and go to your nearby Library place to check out this book if you don't want to buy it yet: you'll be inspired and have a good time for sure!

The SPBR (Sunday Photography's Book Review) article is based on photography books: I read a book and I make a summary of what the editor writes, highlighting what I consider important and adding my own comments, idea and perceptions. This means that the main idea is extracted by the text included in the books and written by their contributors.

- All pictures included in this article are from Tierry O'Neill book "Terry O'Neill: the A-Z fame". Pictures might be subject to copyrights: all rights are reserved to the author.

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