Two hundred and sixty one

Audrey Hepburn during the filming for Two For The Road

1967 by Terry O’Neill
Terry O’Neill; Fifty Years at the Top Chris Beetles Fine Photographs until 23 April

Wandering around Fifty Years at the Top one realises just how far the top can take you; we are confronted with countless infamous figures. There are the obvious ones — the Stones ambling casually past a rehearsal theatre, Marianne Faithful with come to bed eyes — but more intriguingly there are the portraits that surprise, showing their figures in an unexpected pose. We have David Bowie gazing into the older eyes of Elizabeth Taylor, the photo below showing her tenderly offering his mouth her cigarette. There is Frank Sinatra striding confidently onto Miami Beach alongside his entourage of bodyguards and fronted by his ‘stand-in’ who wears the same suit as Frank but badly, his tie flying unkemptly in the wind. The photos are beautiful freeze-frames of interesting lives, expertly framed from the staged to those captured apparently unaware. O’Neill’s photography is wonderfully contrasted — blurred backgrounds made up of startling whites and deeply soft blacks. There is a depth to them, one that reaches into his subject and draws them out; we are left feeling intimately involved. Here Hepburn is shown quiet, eyes cast down in thought, the light bleaching her clothes and hat allowing her features to be outlined darkly, giving them their infamous impact. The scene is atmospherically still and we almost overlook the quivering stance of the bird perched fleetingly on her shoulder.


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