Terry O'Neill: British photographer to the stars dies aged 81


Photographer Terry O'Neill

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EPA

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British photographer Terry O’Neill poses in front of his work “Nelson Mandela at 90” in 2009

British photographer Terry O’Neill, whose work captured iconic images of London’s Swinging Sixties, has died.

O’Neill, 81, had prostate cancer and died at home on Saturday night after a long illness, his agency said.

He photographed celebrities – including The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John and the Queen – and received a CBE last month for services to photography.

BBC Arts Correspondent David Sillito said O’Neil’s work helped to define the Swinging Sixties.

Born in Romford, then in Essex, O’Neill left school aged 14 with hopes of becoming a jazz drummer, but ended up working in a photographic unit at London’s Heathrow airport.

It was there that he captured then Home Secretary Rab Butler, immaculately dressed and asleep on a bench.

The image helped O’Neill land a job as a newspaper photographer on Fleet Street, where he was given first assignment: to capture the portrait of a new band – The Beatles.

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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O’Neill photographed The Beatles in the backyard of the Abbey Road Studios in London – it was one of their first professionally-taken portraits and helped make the photographer famous in his own right

After receiving his CBE at Buckingham Palace, Mr O’Neill, said the award “surpasses anything I’ve had happen to me in my life”.

He photographed the Queen twice. In 2012 he revealed to Desert Island Discs how he had got her to smile during the second photo shoot in 1992 – a year described by the Queen as an annus horribilis – by telling a horse racing joke.

“The second time was great,” he said. “It was in a bad year as she put it and I just got her to laugh because I noticed the first time when she laughed she made a great picture.”

Sir Elton John, who O’Neill photographed on numerous occasions, was among those to pay tribute to O’Neil on Twitter, saying: “He was brilliant, funny and I absolutely loved his company”.

Comedian and children’s author David Walliams called O’Neil “a huge talent and an absolute gentleman” and that his death was the “end of an era”.

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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Elton John described O’Neill as “brilliant and funny”

The agency – Iconic – which represents O’Neill’s work said he was “a class act, quick witted and filled with charm”.

A spokesman added: “Anyone who was lucky enough to know or work with him can attest to his generosity and modesty.

“As one of the most iconic photographers of the last 60 years, his legendary pictures will forever remain imprinted in our memories as well as in our hearts

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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O’Neil captured this image of US actress Faye Dunaway the day after she collected her Academy Award for Best Actress in Network in 1977 – the pair would marry six years later

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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This arresting image of David Bowie helped promote the singer’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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O’Neil said that he told a horse racing joke to the Queen to induce this smile in this portrait taken in 1992, second time he had photographed her

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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The Rolling Stones outside the Tin Pan Alley Club in London in 1963

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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Singer Amy Winehouse poses for a shoot during a concert honouring Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday in Hyde Park, London

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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Actor Roger Moore as James Bond with Live and Let Die co-stars Gloria Hendry (left) and Jane Seymour in 1973

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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Singer Frank Sinatra with his minders and his stand in (who is wearing an identical outfirt to him), arriving at Miami beach while filming The Lady in Cement

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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British model Twiggy was among the famous faces of London’s Swinging Sixties who was photographed by O’Neil

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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Terry O”Neill photographs Laura Bush at the White House in 2001

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Terry O’Neill / Iconic Images

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Terry O’Neill (1938 – 2019)



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