Gabrielle du Plooy Interview with Love magazine

Brigitte Bardot contact sheet

French actress Bridget Bardot open the set of  'LES PETROLEUSES' a.k.a. 'THE LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING', Directed by Christian Jacq credit:: TERRY O’NEILL / Iconic Images

2 SEP 2020
 Words and interview by 
Contact sheet of Faye Dunway
David Bowie contact sheet
 DAVID BOWIE shapeshifting from legendary alias Ziggy Stardust into Thin White Duke and beyond. Faye Dunaway lounging next to the swimming pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel the morning after winning an Academy Award in 1977. Paul Newman and Lee Marvin posing as two Hollywood cowboys in the wake of 1971 comedy Pocket Money. These are just a few of the unseen photographs captured by iconic photographer Terry O'Neill, on show at the
In a retrospective exhibition running 15-29th September celebrating the late photographer, who sadly passed away last year, curator Gabrielle Du Ploy unearths thirteen intimate images from O'Neills archive of over two million negatives. The exhibtion celebrates some of the most pivotal celebrity moments in history – and of course, how O'Neill managed to remain one of the most legendary photographers in history for over six decades. But what was the secret to his success?
"I think the secret to Terry was that he was just himself, he didn’t want to be a celebrity because they were the subjects of his work, not him or his life – he didn’t just turn up and shoot them," shared Gabrille Du Plooy. "Terry was lifelong friends with these people, shooting them for their entire lives, so he got extraordinary access and truly knew them. He was able to capture them in the way that only somebody who knew them intimately could."
LOVE spoke to the curator on the stories behind these unseen photographs, their importance, and how Terry O'Neill captured the human side of the world's most infamous celebrities.
Two musicians on stage
LOVE: For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about TERRY O’ NEILL and why it’s important to stage this exhibition now.
Gabrielle Du Plooy: Terry O’Neill is one of the country’s most celebrated photographers, best known for documenting the emerging fashions, styles and celebs of the '60s. He was the only photographer to have photographed every actor to play James Bond and every British Prime Minister from Winston Churchill to Gordon Brown. He captured The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at the beginning of their careers and documented the most influential film, music and political faces of our time. We sadly lost him last year, and have unearthed these rare and vintage prints of some of history's most pivotal celebrity moments, so we felt it was important to share them with the public and celebrate his extraordinary life with the exhibition.
LOVE: What have you learnt about Terry O’Neill that you didn’t already know whilst curating this exhibition?
GDP: He started out wanting to be a musician, a Jazz drummer in fact, and the best were in America. So originally, he was heading out there to apply to be an Air Steward as a way of getting back and forth. But the airlines were not taking on male stewards and suggested he took a job in their technical photographic unit instead. He was at art school at the time and it led him to becoming interested in photojournalism. He freelanced at Heathrow airport as a paparazzi of the day where he caught a famous politican napping, sold the picture, and got offered a job as a reportage photographer at the Airport. Then he moved on to Fleet Street, where at 21 he was the youngest photographer, taking pictures of the cool kids.
LOVE: I read that there are over two million negatives in his archive, how did you choose which photographs to show? It must have been a difficult process.
GDP: It was a challenging process because there are so many incredible images, but we also wanted to find the most rare, vintage pieces with exciting unseen images, and a lot of Terry’s really iconic images have been seen. We were thrilled to have totally unique and unseen pieces, like the Bowie contact sheet, signed by them both, as well as the rare contact sheets of his iconic [Faye] Dunaway and [Brigitte] Badot shoots.
LOVE: The unique contact sheet of 1974 DAVID BOWIE is amazing. What’s the cultural significance of the moment it captures?
GDP: By the spring of 1974, Bowie had ditched the zipper haircut, platform heels and vivid glam fashions that he, more than anyone, had brought to the mainstream with Ziggy Stardust. By the end of that year he'd basically abandoned Rock 'N' Roll altogether. He was looking for his next thing and these images show his evolution into his next incarnation. This unique contact sheet (the only known print in existence) is of a now-legendary 1974 David Bowie shoot, signed by both Bowie and O’Neill, who described the singer as his "creative muse" and captured his shapeshifting evolution from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and beyond.
The Los Angeles shoot was to promote Bowie’s Diamond Dogs Tour and shows the star smoking, in a yellow suit. On the recto of the contact sheet are the initials ‘DB’ in Chinagraph, indicating Bowie’s favourite image from the shoot, which was later gifted to him by O’Neill.
LOVE: Talk us through some of your other favourite photographs in the exhibition. What are some of the memorable stories behind them?
GDP: Well, we have the contact sheet of one of my all time favourite photographs and one of the images that made me originally get into curating and selling photography at Zebra One Gallery. The picture is of Faye Dunaway at dawn, sitting around the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel with her Oscar for best actress that she had won the night before, with all the newspapers scattered around her reporting on the big event. There’s a story that Terry had said to her days before: “You win the Oscar and I will marry you.” She won and they did indeed get married six years later.
I also also love the 1975 shot of ELIZABETH TAYLOR and DAVID BOWIE in Los Angeles. Taylor was desperate to meet Bowie, so she asked O’Neill - who knew everybody - to bring him to lunch, because she wanted him to star in her next film. He was four hours late for the lunch, leaving the Hollywood superstar fuming. But, thanks to her love for O’Neill, Taylor still agreed to shoot some sultry and spectacular shots with the rockstar, who won her over. He did not get the part in the movie and the session remained buried and unseen, until it was rediscovered by Terry forty years later.
David Bowie and Angie, Credit: Terry O'Neill/ Iconic
Another image shows an outtake from press shots for 1971 comedy western Pocket Money, shot in Arizona and starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin. O’Neill revealed that Marvin was mostly indisposed due to alcohol during the making of the film and refused to come out of his trailer. But he made an exception for O’Neill. As Marvin was a much larger man than Newman, O’Neill persuaded him to bend slightly at the knee and encouraged Newman to stretch up straight so that they both appeared the same size, in the shoot.
Judy and Liza, performing for the first time together, which is a fantastic image and scoop, and the notorious Oliver Reed with British Boxing Legend Henry Cooper, one of Reed’s favourite pictures.
Roger Moore 
Credit Terry O'Neill / Iconic 
LOVE: What role has photography played in shaping the legends of celebrities featured in this exhibition? Does Terry play into mythicising them or revealing their true character?
GDP: Celebrities weren’t accessible like they are today and Terry was given extraordinary access, because he was so loved and respected by them. So, rather than pap shots of celebs leaving Starbucks with a latte, we have Terry’s amazing shots, which always made them look iconic and extraordinary.
He was also able to show us their human side, and gave us drama with his images which were sometimes absurd but always creative and brilliant.
LOVE: Finally, what do you hope people take away from this exhibition?
GDP: To love the images, to be inspired by great photography and one of the greatest photographers of our time.
January 1, 2023