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Terry O'Neill Review

New exhibition celebrates 50 years at the top

Written by . Published on September 27th 2011.

Terry O'Neill Review

NEW independent space Leeds Gallery has got off to a flyer with a stunning new show from Terry O’Neill, who remains one this nation’s great photographers after 50 years in the business.

O’Neill burst on to the scene in the sixties alongside the likes of McCullin and Bailey, but he was more interested in exploring the nature of celebrity.

"This collection shows a charmer uniquely capable of getting behind the façade of fame to the real, often messed up people below."

This show focuses on his work documenting what lurks behind the mask of fame, capturing real stars - not X Factor debris.

This shows features proper celebs from Ol’ Blue Eyes through to the iconic shot of his ex-wife Faye Dunaway, reclining beside a pool with her best actress Oscar for her performance in Network.

It’s surprising how many of those prints are recognisable images that form a key part of our visual vocabulary. There's a huge print costing £8,000 of Sinatra arrogantly strolling to a set through a throng of holidaymakers staring agog at one of the most famous men of all time.  That is the real allure and power of celebrity; not an overpaid footballer quaffing champers with some bimbos.

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My favourite shot is of Paul Newman and Lee Marvin in costume on another set. Newman is at the peak of his beauty, whereas grumpy ex-marine Marvin genuinely looks like he wants to deck him. That is O’Neill’s real gift - capturing the true nature of the globally famous.

The famous work he did with Elton John is here, as is a lovely shot of Amy Winehouse that somehow gets behind the awful make up and tats to the vulnerable little girl. I didn’t know he shot The Boss around the time of Born to Run, or that famous group shot of The Who with Keith Moon was one of his.

O’Neill says he drifted into photography but I’m not buying that - I think he knew what he was meant to do. This collection shows a charmer uniquely capable of getting behind the façade of fame to the real, often messed up people below.

This is the first time his work has been shown in Leeds, and this lovely new gallery with its clean white walls is the perfect place to check out one of the greats.

But be warned - this show is not for the casual collector as the signed limited editions of 50 start at £1,800, but they are a worthwhile investment. Not only because they will hold their value but because they both celebrate and debunk the desperate need to be famous that seems to grip our nation, thanks largely to Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole. 

Leeds Gallery is in Munro House,York Street, (near the BBC and next door to Café 164) and are open Monday to Saturday 10pm to 6pm.  The exhibition catalogue is online at www.leedsgallery.com.

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