Candid camera
A 'crucified' Raquel Welch. Picture: Terry O'Neill

A close-up shot of a pillow-lipped Mick Jagger, head encased in a fur hood. A hippie-era Brigitte Bardot, flower in her hair and cigarette in her hand. The contrast of a moody, scowling young group called the Rolling Stones and the more affable, lovable Beatles on the cusp of becoming the most famous bands of all time.

These are just some of the stars caught in the lens of English photographer Terry O'Neill, who - along with the likes of David Bailey and Terence Donovan - became one of the most in-demand photographers of the 1960s. Over a 50-year career he has photographed some of the world's brightest stars - Glenda Jackson, David Bowie, Audrey Hepburn - at the height of their celebrity.

Now 24 of O'Neill's best-known photographs are coming to Perth courtesy of Darren Weatherby-Blythe, of Weatherby Fine Art, at the QV1 building in the CBD. "I was introduced to Terry's photography by a gallerist in London who very kindly gave me an introduction to Terry and the company behind his work," he explains. "I'd told them about my plans to open a gallery in the city centre and that my vision was to bring the work of international, iconic names to Perth." (Weatherby-Blythe's previous exhibition featured a selection of Bob Dylan's artwork.)

The significance of O'Neill's career is such that he was recently awarded a Royal Photographic Society medal for his "sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography".

Unlike the notoriously prickly Bailey, O'Neill, who is now in his mid-70s, is known for a relaxed style that made the rock stars, actors and models he photographed feel at ease.

"Terry's style was always to tell a story with a picture, to look for the character, personality and private person behind the public image," Weatherby-Blythe says.

"He was always looking for a candid and insightful image. As a portraitist of the stars he was looking beyond the pose for a glint in the eye or a flared nostril - he wanted something that revealed personality. A lot of photographers pose their subjects to create a predetermined look but Terry waited patiently. He's always said 'photography is about patience and the moment - waiting for that one split second where you see something honest and revealing'."

Arguably the most controversial image in the collection is O'Neill's 1970 portrait of Raquel Welch. Shot in Los Angeles, it shows the actress tied to a cross in the animal-skin bikini - from 1966 film One Million Years BC - that was to turn her into an international sex symbol.

"Terry wanted to symbolise the dilemma facing Welch as the female sex symbol of the decade, crucified for her sexuality by the movie industry and not taken seriously as an actress. It was deemed too controversial for use at the time and wasn't published until 30 years later on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine in the UK."

Another of O'Neill's famous images is of a glam-era David Bowie sitting casually beside a leaping Great Dane. Photographed in 1974 during his Diamond Dogs phase, Bowie sports high-heeled boots and looks unconcerned as the dog barks, teeth bared, at the camera.

"As Terry started the shoot, the dog was sitting quietly beside Bowie but suddenly got overexcited and reared 6ft (180cm) into the air," Weatherby-Blythe says. "This apparently terrified the life out of everyone in the studio except Bowie, who didn't even flinch."

Gentler in feel is the photographer's portrait of Audrey Hepburn taken in St Tropez in 1966 during the filming of Two for the Road. According to Weatherby-Blythe, the dove on Hepburn's shoulder landed quite unexpectedly and stayed there for just a handful of frames before flying off.

"There was something almost saintly and vulnerable about Audrey's beauty and grace," he says.

"Goddess probably isn't the right description. She was apparently a joy to photograph - she had that mix of exceptional beauty, talent, charm and professionalism."

But perhaps the most poignant image in the collection is O'Neill's 1977 portrait of Faye Dunaway, who would become his wife in 1983, poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel with newspapers scattered around her the morning after winning a best actress Oscar for Network.

"There's no better image of both the allure and loneliness of celebrity than this," Weatherby-Blythe says.

"Terry wanted to capture a look of dazed confusion - the state of utter shock that Oscar winners enter into when it dawns on them that their bankability - and their lives - have changed forever."

The West Australian

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