Diamond Dogs: Terry O’Neill and David Bowie
16th November 2021
Terry O’Neill’s photographs often push beyond the cliches attributed to his celebrity subjects, documenting their personalities as real and raw. O’Neill was able to leave a lasting impression by demystifying a horde of 20th century icons, showing the world the more intimate sides of fame. On his relationship with David Bowie, O’Neill revealed that the singer was his ‘creative muse’, one of the few people he felt ‘really friendly towards’. For over 20 years, O’Neill documented Bowie’s many personas, revelling in the musician’s unpredictability and vivacious energy. O’Neill captured Bowie for magazine spreads and album covers, as well as during musical performances. The photographer watched as Bowie transformed from Ziggy Stardust, to Major Tom, into the Thin White Duke; ever impressed by the musician’s gender-fluidity and on-stage bravery.
Something O’Neill particularly admired in Bowie was his ability to take charge during their photo sessions. While working on a shoot for Bowie’s upcoming studio album Diamond Dogs in 1975, Bowie brought a giant, sleek dog to the studio. O’Neill appreciated that Bowie had a specific, animalistic, bare-chested pose in mind; and aimed to capture the avant garde chaos intended for the dystopian album. However, every time O’Neill took a photo the dog became agitated, eventually leaping at the strobe light. What resulted was an image of an unaffected Bowie, statuesque and poised, alongside a growling beast. As the dog soars upwards, captured in emphatic motion, Bowie appears calm and composed. O’Neill remembers that ‘everyone else ran’, while he and Bowie remained put and continued shooting.
Today, this image is one of the most iconic photographs in the history of rock ‘n’ roll music. O’Neill revealed an admiration for Bowie’s characters and forcefulness, explaining that it meant their photographs ‘had a purpose’. He goes on to say ‘I guess with most of the other pop stars I shot, it was sometimes very aimless. With David, you never had to coax things out, they just came naturally.”
The ArtistBeginning his career at the start of the 1960’s, Terry O’Neill focused his lens on youth culture, film, music and fashion, capturing the frontline of fame for over six decades. Photographing icons such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Twiggy and The Rolling Stones, O’Neill quickly developed a reputation as the defining photographer of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. Continuing to work closely with stars throughout the following decades, O’Neill’s photographs became popular covers of international magazines and newspapers such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The Sunday Times.Artist Page
Frank Sinatra with his Stand-In and Bodyguards Arriving on Location, Miami Beach, 1968
Mick Jagger waits in his Dressing Room Before an Appearance on ‘Ready Steady Go!’, London, 1964