TERRY O'NEILL: RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME

BRIGITTE BARDOT WITH DOGTerry O’Neill, a British photographer, is renowned for his images of stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Frank Sinatra. His work, recognisable for its candid informality, has appeared in magazines such as Life, Vogue, and Rolling Stone, and his access to high-profile subjects led him to become one of the most published photographers of the 1960s and '70s. Now 71, O’Neill made his name when London was a swinging, creative and altogether chummier place. Evenings at Soho’s Ad Lib Club, a popular haunt for actors, models, musicians and photographers, brought him close to his subjects, and he became friends with the likes of Richard Burton, Michael Caine and David Bowie. His photographs reveal the conflicts, contradictions, desires and dreams that lurked beneath groomed surfaces. He amassed a vast collection of negatives over the years, but as with many photographers of the time, archiving and cataloguing went by the wayside. Terry O’Neill photographyThanks to Getty Images, O'Neill's archive has been properly assessed, and over 40 previously unseen photographs have just gone on show at the Chris Beetles gallery in central London. They are a revelation. O’Neill has an eye for the moment when his subjects are comfortable enough to give something away. The relaxed feel of these images is a world away from those we see of celebrities today, either airbrushed to perfection or snapped on the run. A particularly intimate shot features Brigitte Bardot, one of O’Neill’s favourite subjects, resting between takes on the set of “The Novices” (pictured top). Napping in an elegant, furry dressing gown, she is joined on the bed by the producer’s dog, mouth agape and tongue sprawled. Another notable image is a vintage print of Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine and Peter Cushing on the set of “House of the Long Shadows” (pictured above); four crinkly, bright-eyed faces, stacked in two tiers, look intently into O’Neill’s lens. Humour bubbles beneath the surface, freezing the mischief of the moment. Terry O’Neill photographyOf the images on show three are in colour: a harassed Steve McQueen in his Hollywood office, Raquel Welch clad in cheeky cowboy chaps and red bikini bottom, and a magical, glowing picture of Audrey Hepburn in a swimming pool (pictured) taking a break during the filming of “Two for the Road”. With her damp, cropped hair falling over her eyes and her dazzling smile, Hepburn is relaxed and radiant. Though frozen in time, the moment feels full. We can practically hear her laughing. Terry O’Neill: New & Unseenis at the Chris Beetles gallery, London, until March 6th. ~ HELENA DOUGLAS Picture credit: Copyright Terry O'Neill