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A black and white image of David Bowie in a tweed jacket and wide-brimmed hat, captured by Terry O'Neill

An Inside Look: Intimate & Behind-the-Scenes Prints of Musicians

Capturing world-famous musicians can be a feat in itself. When shooting some of the world's most photographed individuals—what makes an image stand out? 

From striking on-stage moments to iconic album covers, many artists and photographers focus on capturing musicians in their most dynamic and public moments. 

However, it’s sometimes the most (seemingly) ordinary images of these stars that resonate with viewers most. 

These familiar, behind-the-scenes shots of globally recognized musicians require artists to have unique access, as well as a special relationship and level of comfort with these musicians. Such prints of musicians foster a sense of connection and closeness between subject and viewer.

Unlike concert photography and editorial shots, these images capture musical legends in moments rarely seen by the public, giving them an air of exclusivity and rarity. Iconic Images’ archive includes a diverse collection of intimate prints of musicians, captured by the photographers with whom they were closest.

David Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust at the Marquee Club in London

by Terry O’Neill 

When David Bowie played the small Soho venue The Marquee Club in October 1973, most in attendance were unaware that it would be the last time he performed as Ziggy Stardust. Terry O’Neill was given unprecedented access to document the event, a masterful performance for the television program ‘Midnight Special’ and a show Bowie would name ‘The 1980 Floor Show’, a pun on 1984. 

"I was lucky enough to receive the call to come to the Marquee," Terry O'Neill said, "and I was smart enough to say yes. If I had to name the most talented, enigmatic, and audacious star I ever photographed, it would have to be him."

O’Neill shot Bowie and his crew backstage as they went through costume changes, and those magic on-stage hours when Bowie transformed into the character he’d soon officially put to rest. As O’Neill dodged lights and television cameras, he captured a profoundly important moment in music history.

"Bowie became a character when he performed,” the photographer recalled. “As much as a person takes a role in a play for the West End or on Broadway, learning the lines, putting on the costumes – this was, I think, the way he treated his stage. That night at the Marquee, I witnessed a modern-day Hamlet – and his name was Ziggy Stardust.’

Over four decades later, the award-winning music writer Daniel Rachel would interview key players from that day, including Ava Cherry, Amanda Lear, Suzi Ronson, Jayne County, Ken Scott, Geoff MacCormack, and O’Neill himself. The result was a book – When Ziggy Played the Marquee – containing never-before-seen imagery of the event, alongside new insights and old memories from backstage staff and audience members.

Alice Cooper in His Pool Circa 1975

by Terry O’Neill 

Known for his intimate prints of musicians and celebrities, Terry O’Neill captures Alice Cooper lounging by his pool. Cooper is recognized as one of the most iconic rock stars of the '70s. This image captures Cooper at the height of his commercial success as a musician.

While Cooper appears at ease in the photographs, O’Neill famously remembers this day as being quite cold and cloudy. Cooper shivered throughout the shoot, which was press for his upcoming album.

Alice Cooper’s famous look typically consisted of over-the-top glam-rock outfits, dark makeup, and a large, black top hat. Unlike many commercially popular images of the star, this image depicts Cooper as he looked behind the scenes with family and friends. Viewers get a rare glimpse at the “Godfather of Shock Rock,” as he lounges in his pool reading a book. 

Paul McCartney at Ringo Starr’s Wedding 1981

by Terry O’Neill 

Arguably the most famous band of all time, The Beatles were also one of the most-photographed bands on earth. While there are thousands of famous images of the Fab Four, few photographers gained up-close access to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

In 1981, years after the group split, former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr married Barbara Bach, an American actress and model. The wedding reception took place at the London club Rags, and was attended by the band’s living former members.

A long-time friend of Ringo Starr, Terry O’Neill was the exclusive photographer for the high-profile wedding. 

Due to massive public excitement over the former Beatle’s nuptials, O’Neill worked astonishingly quickly to get the photographs printed and approved by the newlyweds before going to the next day’s papers. It’s said O’Neill had a man waiting outside on a motorbike who zoomed off to deliver the negatives and bring them back to the party for approval. 

Bruce Springsteen on the Sunset Strip 1975 

by Terry O’Neill 

Of the encounter, O’Neill stated: “I stopped him on the street, introduced myself and asked if he minded me taking a few photos. I think he was really quite happy that someone had recognised him. As I started to take the photos, I looked up and saw a giant billboard advertising his new album Born to Run. “

In the autumn of 1975, Terry O’Neill was out for a drive on LA’s Sunset Strip. As he climbed from his car to visit Tower Records, he noticed a group of people walking towards him and recognised one of them—an up-and-coming musician named Bruce Springsteen.

Now regarded as one of the most successful rock and roll musicians of all time, Bruce Springsteen received his first taste of commercial success in 1975. This print by Terry O’Neill captures Springsteen promoting Born to Run. The album, which gained massive critical and popular success, had not yet become a massive hit. 

O’Neill was able to preserve a truly special moment in time, when a young Bruce Springsteen was traveling the country promoting his work, just before becoming a household name and one of America’s most beloved rock stars.  

“I remember selling my photo of Bruce on the Sunset Strip to Melody Maker. They ran it on the cover in November 1975. Talk about good luck!” O’Neill reflected.

George Harrison at His Home in Friar Park 

by Terry O’Neill 

George Harrison, lead guitarist of The Beatles, was known as the quiet, spiritual member of the group. In the band’s later years, Harrison began to explore East Asian cultural influences. He became closely associated with the Hare Krishna movement and embraced classical Indian musical motifs.

In this image of George Harrison, Terry O’Neill captures the former Beatle in a moment of peace, far removed from the fast-paced lifestyle and chaos of Beatlemania. O’Neill recalls the session, stating: 

“It was like a wonderland, complete with caves, gardens, grottoes and streams of water. There was this one little patch of water with a small deck that had the most perfect view of the house in the background. So he sat down, as Zen as anything, draped in this off-orange Hare Krishna wrap. He just looked completely at peace.” 

About Terry O'Neill

Terry O’Neill is one of the world’s most-collected artists, known for capturing some of the world’s most important faces—from politicians to pop stars. O’Neill had a knack for embracing the youth culture and understood its cultural significance. He focused in on emerging faces in fame, photographing greats like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones long before they became household names

His prints of musicians, politicians, artists, film stars and other famous figures hang in national galleries and private collections worldwide. What sets O’Neill’s photograph apart is his ability to capture behind-the-scenes, intimate moments. He built long-standing creative relationships with artists like David Bowie, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and Chuck Berry, allowing him exclusive access to places and moments that many photographers only dream of. 

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