Terry O’Neill: The Storyteller

Romy Schneider Terry O'Neill

The face. Romy Schneider

What do you do when you find Terry O’Neill’s photography book, Terry O’Neill: The A-Z of Fame, on huge sale at a street book fair? Grab it looking over your shoulder, pay for it in a hurry (almos feeling guilty, but mostly giddy for such bargain) and run. I ran with a story book. Because each photograph has its own story to tell.

But there is no face like Romy Schneider’s. And there is no portrait of Romy like the one shot by Terry O’Neill. Her natural, sculptural beauty, her mystery, her sadness, her self-regard, her hidden depths, her fragility, her sensitivity, her tortured soul … it’s all in this photograph, everything Romy’s face seemed to transmit, then making you question everything you thought you saw on her face.

Black and white has always been Terry O’Neill’s chosen medium. And it’s always his black and white photography that makes me linger over one image or another. He photographed everyone from Robert Redford to Sean Connery, from The Rolling Stones to Frank Sinatra (having compiled his pictures in the book Sinatra: Frank and Friendly). Terry O’Neill has many a tale to tell. And he has told the tales behind many of his legendary photographs (and, somehow, by doing so, he doesn’t take from their mystery, but adds to it). But with good-natured tact, charm, discretion. Always the professional, never intruding. It’s the approach he has also used in his photography. “I suppose I get on with these people because I never wanted to be up front.”

“I’ve been repeatedly asked to write my autobiography
– I have seen an awful lot of famous people at their best and worst –
but I’m not interested in making money trading their secrets or mine.
I want my pictures to tell a story, not sell a story. […]
I have always tried to give people dignity in my pictures.
That is what it’s all about for me.”


The photographer. Norman Parkinson

Jane Fonda Terry O'Neill

The Hollywood actress. Jane Fonda

Dustin Hoffman Terry O'Neill

The seeker. Dustin Hoffman


“I’m not really interested in photography anymore. I’ve semi-retired;
there’s nobody I want to photograph now. Nobody as great as all the people I used to photograph.
Standards have fallen where photography is concerned. Now when you go to a film premiere, the photographers look at their pictures as they take them and when they have ‘the shot’, they just stop shooting.
Photography is all about shooting and capturing a moment spontaneously,
not worrying about what picture you have already taken.”

Monica Vitti Terry O'Neill

The Michelangelo Antonioni muse. Monica Vitti

The Rolling Stones Terry O'Neill

The band. The Rolling Stones

Clint Eastwood Terry O'Neill

The legend. Clint Eastwood

photos of the book by me; Terry O’Neill: The A-Z of Fame was published by ACC Editions

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