Born in the East End of London Terry O’Neill first became a professional jazz musician at the age of 14. After doing his National service he began working for a photographic unit for an airline at London’s Heathrow Airport. By chance he photographed a sleeping figure in a waiting room; when the person was revealed to be the Home Secretary, O’Neill found further employment on Fleet Street with The Daily Sketch in 1959. He later went freelance for Vogue, Paris Match and Rolling Stone. He attracted attention for photographing his subjects is unconventional or candid settings.
O’Neil’s reputation grew during the 1960s, and in addition to photographing the elite and the decade’s show business icons, such as Judy Garland, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, he also photographed members of the British Royal Family and several prominent politicians, showing a more natural and human side to these subjects than had usually been portrayed before.