When your first major assignment was to photograph a little-known band called the Beatles, you’re sure to have quite an archive.
According to Terry O’Neill, the acclaimed British photographer who captured those four mop-tops from Liverpool just before stardom came calling, his success has been mostly a matter of good fortune. “I just came along at the right time, and everything I touched turned to gold,” he says of his five-decade career shooting many of music’s most familiar faces. His collection—which ranges from a pre-fame Mick Jagger to O’Neill’s ex-wife Faye Dunaway lounging beside the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel the morning after her 1977 Academy Award win—is currently the star of SLS Las Vegas’s new mezzanine-level gallery Iconic Images, a tribute to the glory days of pop music and the entertainers who frequented the property in its former incarnation as the Sahara.
To celebrate the gallery’s debut, O’Neill has unveiled a trio of never-before-seen photos—one of comedian Jerry Lewis, and two of Frank Sinatra that were taken during a show at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The Sinatra photographs, O’Neill says, are of particular interest because they depict the singer performing in front of an audience that includes two of his four wives, Barbara Sinatra and Ava Gardner (in case you’re wondering, Ol’ Blue Eyes requested the shots).
These images and others will hang alongside work from fellow celebrity photographers Douglas Kirkland, Michael Moebius, Gered Mankowitz, and Baron Wolman. O’Neill and the team at SLS, who designed the space specifically with him in mind, think the collection will introduce viewers to a more intimate kind of entertainment photography, one that has almost disappeared in an era rife with paparazzi and public relations gatekeepers who are quick to deny access to today’s stars. “I used to go into their lives and ref lect their work,” O’Neill says, adding that most contemporary photographers receive just a few hours of face time with their subjects. “I’ve always loved everyone I’ve ever photographed.”
In fact, he hopes that very love will be enough to make the project a success, augmenting Vegas’s growing reputation as an arts town. “I’ve always wondered why Las Vegas has never had a really great photographic gallery—it’s a town that’s always trying to be one jump ahead of everything else in the world, but not in the art world,” O’Neill says. “We’re hoping this one will arrive to put it on the map.” 702-761-7600