Muhammad Ali to Angelina Jolie: Ten of the greatest photo portraits
Last updated at 10:27 PM on 21st January 2012
From one of the greatest sports pictures of all-time to a pre-fame image of the world’s most famous actress, TERRY O’NEILL chooses his favourites pictures
1. MUHAMMAD ALI
by NEIL LEIFER
At this time everyone was looking for the punch connecting and the gum shields flying. But Neil Leifer always pushed the envelope
Leifer was a Sports Illustrated staffer in the Sixties and his shot of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston who he’s just KO’d in 1965 is one of the all-time great sports pictures. At this time everyone was looking for the punch connecting and the gum shields flying. But Neil always pushed the envelope. Ali is like a young lion who’s crowned himself king of the jungle, and that’s what the ring is – a jungle. I photographed Ali a few years later in 1974, a little past his prime, in Dublin. He was in his training camp and very depressed. They had to fly his mother over to placate him. He just wasn’t the same man any more.
2. MARILYN MONROE
by BERT STERN
Everyone was fixated on Marilyn Monroe’s bosom but Bert Stern made a thing of her back. It’s coy and it’s very clever
Stern had three sessions with Marilyn Monroe for Vogue in June 1962, six weeks before her death, and it became known as The Last Sitting. Everyone was fixated on her bosom but he made a thing of her back. It’s coy and it’s very clever. He recreated the pictures in 2008 for The New Yorker with Lindsay Lohan. She’s no Marilyn but what I found odd was a guy paying tribute to himself. So many people want to copy or recreate famous pictures these days. Rankin did it with my shot of Faye Dunaway by her pool after the Oscars. I had to be nice but it wasn’t all that. He had a dozen assistants running around and I’d shot it on my own at the crack of dawn. You can’t go back.
3. TERENCE STAMP
by TERENCE DONOVAN
This wonderful, brooding image of Terence Stamp from 1967 was taken on the set of Far From The Madding Crowd. He was one of the great actors of that era
Terry is a good-looking fella, and this wonderful, brooding image of him from 1967 was taken on the set of Far From The Madding Crowd. He was one of the great actors of that era. He and Jean Shrimpton were the two faces of the Sixties and I was lucky enough to shoot them together; that image remains one of my best sellers. Terence Donovan was a great guy. We got on well and it was a shock when he killed himself in 1996. I couldn’t believe it when I heard. Terry, David Bailey and I were all from East London, as was Terry Stamp. We were kids from poor backgrounds. We had a chance to do something, and we grabbed it.
4. ELIZABETH TAYLOR
Elizabeth Taylor has to be one of, if not the, most beautiful women who ever walked God’s Earth, and this publicity still – taken by an unknown photographer – has real class and would grace any cover today
I grew up with Forties and Fifties Hollywood publicity shots like this. They seemed so cheesy then but now, looking back, they have a charm of their own. Elizabeth Taylor has to be one of, if not the, most beautiful women who ever walked God’s Earth, and this publicity still – taken by an unknown photographer – has real class and would grace any cover today. I knew Elizabeth well (she hated being called Liz) and the reason I love this shot is because, deep down, behind the movie star there was a very ordinary girl who was quite shy really. I remember once at a Hollywood party I had to go and find her. She was hiding because the room was full of stars like Robert De Niro and Tom Cruise and she was afraid to meet them. I had to escort her into the room and hold her hand and introduce her around to break the ice.
5. ANGELINA JOLIE
by GEORGE HOLZ
Nobody had heard of Angelina Jolie then – it was 1998 and she was a minor TV actress, but everything about her screamed ‘Star!’
The first time I saw this picture by U.S. celebrity photographer George Holz I knew the young woman in it was going to be huge. Nobody had heard of Angelina Jolie then – it was 1998 and she was a minor TV actress, but everything about her screamed ‘Star!’ This is from the pre-digital age and it proves that all the computer tricks and tools the stars and their agents use today to manipulate their image can’t hold a candle to a someone who knows how to use a camera and film.
6. AUDREY HEPBURN
by TERRY O’NEILL
Audrey Hepburn was always photographed as the iconic, stylish beauty – but she had such an impish sense of humour and she could get really frisky
You couldn’t miss with Hepburn. In fact, I can’t recall seeing many bad shots of her at all. She was always photographed as the iconic, stylish beauty – but she had such an impish sense of humour and she could get really frisky. I was lucky to be there when she was in a particularly mischievous mood in St Tropez, in 1967. Funnily enough she hated water but had to be in the pool for a take on the set of Two For The Road. When I see an actress described as the ‘new Audrey Hepburn’ I laugh. There’ll never be another.
7. AMERICAN MARINE
by W EUGENE SMITH
This portrait of a battle-weary American Marine fighting his way across the Pacific during WWII always moves me. You can see how a handsome young man has become toughened and grizzled by war
W Eugene Smith is one of my all time favourite photographers. He was obsessive about detail and had a reputation of being very testy, but this portrait of a battle-weary American Marine fighting his way across the Pacific during WWII always moves me. You can see how a handsome young man has become toughened and grizzled by war. I never took pictures in a war so I can only imagine how tough it must be to be a war photographer – I know Smith was wounded doing his job – but I can also see how much of a privilege it must be.
This has everything you expect in a Churchill photograph: the authority, the bulldog expression. Everything but the cigar, because Karsh took it off him, which made Churchill scowl even more
This was the first photographic portrait I ever saw and it set me on my way. Shot by Canadian photographer Karsh in Ottawa in 1941, this is a classic; a powerful image that’s like a grand old painting. Karsh was a great technician – he even lit the hands separately – and this has everything you expect in a Churchill photograph: the authority, the bulldog expression. Everything but the cigar, because Karsh took it off him, which made Churchill scowl even more. I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that. Churchill was impressed by the result saying, ‘You could make a roaring lion stand still’. I met Karsh years later in London and I told him this was one of my favourites portraits, but he was very humble about it.
9. ANTHONY BLUNT
by LORD SNOWDON
Anthony Blunt was the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures then but was later revealed to be one of the most infamous spies ever. This captures a certain steeliness in him
A technically brilliant shot of Anthony Blunt with a Picasso transparency ‘projected’ onto his face. Blunt was the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures then but was later revealed to be one of the most infamous spies ever. This captures a certain steeliness in him. Tony is a truly great photographer. He once said, ‘I don’t like photographs displayed in the house. I don’t consider them art.’ But I don’t think he believes it and I think he should have more exhibitions to remind people how good he is. Everyone remembers his privileged background but I had a conversation with him about it once and he said all everyone thought was: ‘Princess Margaret’s husband’. It did him less of a favour than you might imagine.
10. AFGHAN GIRL
by STEVE MCCURRY
It’s a truly great image. I recall being mesmerised by it when I first saw it. The eyes just burn out of the page at you. It’s known as ‘the Afghan Mona Lisa’
American photo journalist Steve McCurry is a very talented guy and his portrait of a 12-year-old Afghan refugee girl, Sharbat Gula, became the cover of a 1985 copy of National Geographic. It’s a truly great image. I recall being mesmerised by it when I first saw it. The eyes just burn out of the page at you. It’s known as ‘the Afghan Mona Lisa’ and it demonstrates the power of an image to create its own story. McCurry went back to find her almost 20 years later, and eventually tracked her down in a little village.
Terry O’Neill picture byline: Getty Images
Terry O’Neill’s Screen Sirens Rock Rebels is at the Proud Chelsea Gallery, proudonline.co.uk.
Marilyn Monroe pictures from ‘Marilyn Monroe’ by Norman Mailer Bert Stern, Taschen, £650
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The word “iconic” is starting to become greatly over-used. The photo of Jolie is not “iconic”…it’s just a photo of an ACTRESS, for God’s sake!
Ha! Angelina Jolie was never a “minor TV actress”! Certainly not in 1998. ‘Hackers’ came out in 1995 and she’s been pretty well known ever since. (I remember her being on British television that year (‘The Big Breakfast’ and the like) soon after she married Johnny Lee Miller.) By mid-1998 she was on international magazine covers, had already won awards for ‘Gia’ and by the next year she’d starred in the film (‘Girl Interrupted’) which won her an Oscar. “Minor TV actress”? Really?
Guerrillero Heroico (Che Guevarra) taken by Alberto Korda, should be on the top list.
“The Girl with Green Eyes” is still stunning after all these years. All of the images are stellar and truly show the artistry of the photographers.
Why is Angelina Jolie even on the list? That not an iconic portrait like the others.
the eyes tell the story.
The Afghan Girl is just beautiful.
How the hell is “AFGHAN GIRL” number 10
Top 3 at least
The ‘Eyes’ have it!
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