BIG INTERVIEW: TERRY

Kathrine Anker visits TERRY O NEILL and finds out how the digital era has revolutionised his print sales, and what he d say if he was asked to photograph The Queen again To get to Terry O Neilloffice in Mayfair you pass by consulates with armed security guards, swanky homes of the privileged and bombastic window displays of fine bone china merchant Thomas Goode. One of T Goodewindow displays show a portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, smiling warmly with a youthful spark in her eyes. Her dress, her then dark grey hair, and the pompous tapestry in the background all have that muted yet striking colour tone that is so distinctly Terry s. Seeing Her Majesty hover above me behind giant stone pillars alerts me to the fact that Isomehow missed the address at which Isupposed to visit the great master of celebrity photography, until I realise that his office is right in the middle of the fine china frenzy. Upon entering the studio, expecting the interior to match the exterior, I am slightly surprised to find not a grand studio with high, stuccoed ceilings, as the mindeye would conjure, but a basement office with a couple of desks and stacks upon stacks of boxes with archived images labelled according to surname. Bowie, Sinatra, Connery; this is the heart of a photography collection that spans six decades and covers just about any celebrity worth remembering. I am greeted by Terryassistant, Alice, who introduces me to Robin Morgan, a former editor of The Sunday Times Magazine who is now Terrybusiness partner. On a black leather sofa opposite the desks sits Terry, casual, yet elegant looking in jeans and a dark corduroy jacket, typing on his iPhone. Up until now I have been thinking of questions to ask Terry about his work as a photographer: what does a pro do when, as Terry is known to have said, there is no-one out there to photograph anymore? When not even the Duchess of Cambridge tickles your fancy? But as I make myself comfortable on the sofa next to Terry, I realise that the majority of his work is now of a very different kind. When the three-person strong business I am visiting is not travelling the world to exhibit and sell Terryimages in galleries across the globe, they keep busy sourcing and repatriating all the images he has taken over the years; from the old agencies he supplied to during his time in the United States to collections in the archives of British national newspapers. Not an easy task, considering how many years of work we are talking about, and presumably quite challenging as any agency would want to hold on to these now precious and very saleable pictures? was always a freelancer and I was never prepared to sign over my copyright,”explains Terry. Robin chips in: of Terrycontemporaries, such as David Bailey, did sign over their rights sometimes. But Terry owns the rights to all his negatives from the sixties and seventies. Wefinding a lot of images that Terry had completely forgotten he had taken. Look at this one," Robin gestures for me to come and look at his computer screen. In front of me is a black and white picture of Sean Connery swinging a golf club on the moon, next to an American flag, with a cheeky smile on his face. literally just found this,”says Robin, was taken on the set of Diamonds are Forever. Terry knew that Connery loved golf and asked him to bring his golf clubs back to the set in the lunch break so they could take some pictures. Ita million-dollar image!”Terry adds: producing a book with all my James Bond images, so I did photograph Daniel Craig yesterday, but these days I rarely photograph anybody. These days I concentrate on selling prints.”Hence the stuffed archive —a studio is no longer necessary. But just because Terry can now harness the fruits of a lifetime of cutting-edge work, doesn t mean the agencies will easily hand it over: do have to fight sometimes,”Robin says. agencies keep boxes of negatives stored away because ittoo much work to have them digitalised, but some of them are also aware of how much their old image libraries are worth, and they donwant anybody to know. Recently, we had to take an agency to court because they claimed to own the rights to Terryimages because they had stored them for so long. Our response was that if they had held on to them for that long, they were liable for any damage that may have occurred to the images. I think thatwhen they realised we wouldnback down.”He adds: week I found 96 press images of Terryfor sale on eBay. But the really worrying thing is that you can buy negatives on the market, and when you ask the agency that originally stored those negatives how they ended up on the market, they never know what to say.”Interestingly, although most of Terrytreasure trove is from a time before the digital era, Robin points out that modern technology is actually what enables photographers such as Terry to repatriate many of their images. Not just because the invention of image tracking software means there is now a business in policing copyright, a bit like the way some lawyers chase ambulances, but also because of the increased global reach and the sales opportunities that come from a global awareness of who Terry Ois. A digital revolution of analogue image sales, if you like. PHOTOGRAPHER BY ACCIDENT While Robin has stolen my attention, the great legend has been busy on the phone, seemingly happy to avoid having to regurgitate what heno doubt told many a journalist before me: how he grew up in an air raid shelter in east London during WW II, wanted to become an air steward so he could fly to New York and become a jazz drummer, and how British Airways gave him a camera in 1958 and hired him to take pictures instead. Terrybreak-through was a bit of an accident too; while taking pictures of people in the airport, he unknowingly captured the then Home Secretary, Rab Butler, asleep among a group of African chieftains. Definitely not a paparazzi shot. Terry says and looks horrified that Ieven suggested it. didnknow who he was, I just thought it looked neat with the white guy in the suit sleeping in the middle of a crowd of African chiefs!”The picture caught the eye of the editor of the now defunct Dispatch, and it wasnlong before Terry was one of the highest paid photojournalists in Fleet Street. It was the sixties, times were a-changing and Terryknowledge of music brought him on a path to specialising in what was still a novelty: celebrities. groups were a new thing, previously musicians were all soloists, and newspapers didnuse to publish pictures of the new groups,”Terry says. the day they published my picture of The Beatles the paper sold out and they asked me, since I was an ex jazz musician, who else I thought was good. I thought the Rolling Stones were great so I photographed them and brought the picture back and the editors thought the guys looked like monsters. So they asked me to find someone more beautiful next time”. Find someone beautiful he did; Faye Dunaway, who he married. His photograph of her looking exhausted the morning after she had won her Best Actress Oscar for Network was nominated the most iconic Hollywood shot of all time. Terry tells me that it was a time when relationships with celebrities were much more personal than they are now. His 20-year working relationship with Frank Sinatra started when Terry approached Sinatra with a hand-written letter from Ava Gardner, and Sinatra opened his doors to Terry, letting him walk wherever he liked and take photos of whatever he liked. you have to go through a manager and theyso controlling, they want to decide what you do and they want to have a final say over the images that you use, and I just canbe bothered anymore. It doesninterest me. Back then you had relationships with the people you photographed, not with their managers, and the portraits showed much more of the models’personalities as a result.” NOBODY TO PHOTOGRAPH When I ask, Terry readily confirms what he has publicly stated before; there really isnanybody famous helike to photograph these days. The reality stars and overly PR-manicured film stars of our age have no individuality. remember seeing a gossip magazine over in the States, and I thought, the day that comes to the UK the game is over for photographers. And it did, wegot Hello magazine now.”Terry adds that these days, big name photographers are more like art directors: have a big team of assistants. Iprefer not to have any, itmuch more personal that way.”Robin chips in again: was hilarious to watch the documentary where Rankin did a retake of TerryFaye Dunaway image. It took 15 people! When Terry did it, it was just the two of them, a coffee pot and an Oscar.” With six decades of celebrities under his belt, I wonder if anybody had ever managed to make Terry starstruck or nervous. The Queen, the first time I photographed her,”Terry recalls. suddenly thought of everything that could go wrong and thatnever been something Iworried about before. But she was amazing, she immediately put me at ease. That was in 1992, her annus horribilis, the year Princess Diana and Prince Charles got divorced. If I got the opportunity to photograph The Queen again, Ido it all differently. Back then I didnthink about it, I was just contacted and asked to come in and do a job. If I could do it again Itake her outside, somewhere in the British countryside. And if I couldn, then I wouldnphotograph her.” CAREER HIGHLIGHTS Of Terryentire portfolio, including the iconic image of Brigitte Bardot with a lock of hair swept across her face, every James Bond actor, Clint Eastwood, The Beatles and Steve McQueen, just to name a few, no favourite springs to Terrymind. all good,”he says. But as our conversation progresses, I pick up on two things that Terry describe as highlights of his career. Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest moments in my career, I spent a whole week photographing him for his 90th birthday celebrations in London, and we used to chat every day between his meetings. I really admired how he was able to talk to everyone. Youthink herun out of things to say but he never did. After I had finished that job I nearly burst into tears realising what a great man he is.”The other highlight Terry picks from his career is his own award, the Terry OAward. Each year, thousands of young photographers submit their images to be judged by him and a line-up of magazine editors. really enjoy it, although the judging process takes a whole week now with all the submissions we are getting.”Categories are open and photographers can enter fine art, photojournalism, landscape, wildlife and fashion. That way young, graduating photographers can enter their degree work and photographic practise can be encouraged.”The award was Terryown idea, but his vote carries no more weight than that of the other judges. can be annoying if we donagree, but itfairer that way,”he laughs and adds: like the old style of photography and itgreat to see the solid work of photojournalism we get through from young photographers. I love to encourage that.” A LITTLE WHITE LIE Sitting next to someone who has achieved so much, met so many inspirational people and yet seems so humble and down-to-earth, I wonder what he would pass on to the young photographers he likes to help on the beginning of their career paths, if he could only tell them one thing. Terry thinks for a couple of seconds and replies: make sure there is film in the camera. I once photographed Peter Sellers’wedding, he had told me to come round the back and he would give me an exclusive. So I took all these pictures and went back to the office, only to realise that there was no film.”At this point Alice and Robin both burst out laughing. never heard that one before, how embarrassing,”says Robin. Terry agrees: had to go back and do it all over again. I think I found an excuse, I made something up.”More laughter ensues. guess you can tell the story now, itbeen so long,”Robin says. EASTERN EXPANSION Terry is now in his 70s, but he does not seem to plan to retire anytime soon. Therea huge market for prints in the east, a packed world-wide exhibition schedule to attend to and then of course the constant archive digging and repatriation of negatives, which may bring a whole new set of masterpieces to the attention of the world. Is there any Terry-time left in his diary? Robin immediately replies in the negative: has no spare time!”But the legend himself is a bit more optimistic: read spy thrillers, and biographies of the people I photograph. Icurrently reading a book called Brandenburg by Henry Porter, which I found in a second-hand bookshop. And I watch telly. Ia sportaholic, I watch everything from athletics to cricket to football, especially when my team Chelsea is playing.”So no photography then? Quite the contrary in fact: only take pictures for money, if I did it for fun Igo mad, having to wait for the light to be right and so on. So I dontake my camera with me when Inot working,”he says without hesitation. I hate cameras, but you need them to take pictures. If I could do that without a camera, I would. The picture gets created in my brain. Cameras are so fuzzy, theythe thing that can go wrong.”Having said that, Terry does have a favourite camera. would be Leica, I only own a 40mm and itgreat because itso small and simple, you just bring it out with you and use it.”The recently released film about David Bailey, We ll Take Manhattan, springs to mind. Like Bailey, Terry was ahead of his time in the 60s, using 35mm and discovering new models who went on to become superstars. But was it like John McKayfilm about Bailey, a constant struggle against conservative editors accompanied by ample flirting to win the hearts of the models at the click of a button? , thatromanticised. My editors were attracted to the flexibility of the 35mm and the choice of 36 pictures.”Half an answer —I guess I really wanted to know if this calm, elegant master photographer was once a bit of a charmer, as his contemporary, Bailey is known to be. If some of those great expressions on the models’faces speak of a flirtatious encounter

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