Terry O’Neill ‘Old blue-eyes is back in town’

Terry O'Neill's iconic photo of old blue eyes

During the week I was lucky enough to get into a VIP Private Viewing at the newest gallery space in Leeds, aptly named ‘Leeds Gallery’. This wasn’t to say my name was on the guest list, It wasn’t. I’d turned up assuming it was the public launch, but… smartly dressed and with a nice smile I managed to blag my way in, the old ‘blue-eyes’ worked a treat.

This opening exhibition is of Terry O’Neill: 50 Years at the top, a world-renowned photographer of choice for Hollywood’s film stars and music legends alike. As a lover of taking and seeing photography myself, it was quite pleasing to have gate-crashed this prestigious event. So armed with a feather in my cap, a perky glass of champers and a gallery guide I ventured into the throng of the good, the great and Twitterati of Leeds.

Terry O'Neill Private Viewing 13th September 2011

But for me the real stars were on the gallery walls, 38 stunning prints all in beautiful black & white, apart from a huge 30”x40” Digital C-Type print of Elton John at the Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium in 1975 and Audrey Hepburn taking a break in the swimming pool during the filming of ‘Two For The Road’ in 1967. Although stunning in their own right, these juxtaposed snapshots of celebrity life, for me I personally felt them slightly out of kilter in this vast collection of B/W memorabilia, as well with the gallery branding and fit-out all being in ebony & ivory.

Elton John at the Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium in 1975

Trust me this isn’t a bum note, as the rest was a pure joy to gaze upon, starting with the gargantuan 40”x60” digital bromide print behind the drinks reception of Frank Sinatra, with his minders and his stand in (who is wearing an identical outfit to Sinatra), arriving at Miami beach while filming, ‘The Lady In Cement’, 1968, set next to a print of the gorgeous Jean Shrimpton at London’s doll’s hospital. A truly magnificent start considering I’d hardly stepped through the door.

Frank Sinatra, with his minders and his stand in (who is wearing an identical outfit to Sinatra), arriving at Miami beach while filming, 'The Lady In Cement', 1968

The rest didn’t disappoint either; hanging next to Elton was the late Amy Winehouse in all her ‘painted lady’ glory. I was lucky enough to witness her in 2003 just a few hundred yards from the gallery in the Leeds College of Music supporting Jamie Cullum at the start of her career.

The talented but sadly late Amy Winehouse

One thing you’ll glean from seeing Terry’s body of work is how he captures the very ‘cool’ essence of his gentlemen sitters, notably Michael Caine, Paula Newman, Lee Marvin and the luminescent photo of Terrance Stamp. The Ladies are not left out either, with the raw beauty of Brigitte Bardot in two separate pieces followed by some of the sexiest shots you’ll ever see of Marianne Faithfull and Raquel Welch.

The sexy Marianne Faithfull

Sadly it was time for me to leave this bright new star arriving on the art scene of Leeds, but I have to say, it is ‘the’ perfect gallery venue sat next to the adjoining Café 164 in this the new and emerging cultural quarter of Leeds.

I was asked later what my favourite Terry O’Neill photo was, which is quite a hard task, for they are all stunner’s in their own right, but for me it was the Hammer House of Horror masters Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine, and Peter Cushing all in costume for the filming of ‘The House Of The Long Shadows’, in 1983. This photo for me epitomises these four movie legends at the top of their game and is composed in an almost rock-band style way, as if they were about to release for their new album.

Its hammer time

Truly magnificent

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