British photographer Terry O’Neill, whose work captured iconic images of London’s Swinging Sixties, has died.
O’Neill, 81, had prostate cancer and died at home on Saturday night after a long illness, his agency said.
He photographed celebrities – including The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John and the Queen – and received a CBE last month for services to photography.
BBC Arts Correspondent David Sillito said O’Neil’s work helped to define the Swinging Sixties.
Born in London, O’Neill left school with hopes of becoming a jazz drummer but ended up working in a photographic unit at London’s Heathrow Airport.
It was there that he captured then Home Secretary Rab Butler, immaculately dressed and asleep on a bench.
The image helped O’Neill land a job as a newspaper photographer on Fleet Street, where he was assigned to capture the portrait of a new band – The Beatles.
After receiving his CBE at Buckingham Palace, Mr O’Neill said the award “surpasses anything I’ve had to happen to me in my life”.
He photographed the Queen twice. In 2001 he revealed on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs how he had got her to smile during the second photoshoot in 1992 – a year described by the Queen as an “annus horribilis” – by telling a horse-racing joke.
“The second time was great,” he said. “It was in a bad year, as she put it. And I just got her to laugh because I noticed the first time when she laughed, she made a great picture.”
Sir Elton John, whom O’Neill photographed on numerous occasions, was among those to pay tribute to the photographer on Twitter, saying: “He was brilliant, funny and I absolutely loved his company”.
Terry O’Neill took the most iconic photographs of me throughout the years, completely capturing my moods. He was brilliant, funny and I absolutely loved his company. A real character who has now passed on.
RIP you wonderful man.
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) November 17, 2019
Comedian and children’s author David Walliams called O’Neill “huge talent and an absolute gentleman” and said his death was the “end of an era”.
Iconic Images, the agency which represents O’Neill’s work, said he was “a class act, quick-witted and filled with charm”.
A spokesman added: “Anyone who was lucky enough to know or work with him can attest to his generosity and modesty.
“As one of the most iconic photographers of the last 60 years, his legendary pictures will forever remain imprinted in our memories as well as in our hearts.”
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