Social media, the press and the whole damn internet is awash with pictures on the subject of the Oscars. They are mostly, always the same picture, only reinhabited by different players from last year, and the years before that. There are the official ones: Recipients holding the Oscar statues like golf trophies, then there are the candid chating amongst themselves images that are like shooting fish in a barrel type photography. Point a camera at a Hollywood party, you can’t miss. But every now and then there is a considered, imaginative, intimate portrait of an Oscar Winner. There are not many taken like this in the few days of the Oscars, probably it’s a matter of access. Security is so tight that almost no one can speak to anyone without a special pass.
When I think about the Oscars, my mind oftens turns to a picture taken in 1971 of Faye Dunaway taking breakfast at the Bevelly Hills Hotel in the early the morning after she received the Oscar for her role in Network. Her co-star Peter Finch was awarded a pothumous Oscar for the same film.
London Photographer Terry O’niell asked Faye if he could do her picture; he wanted to capture that one moment, never to come again, when someone has suddenly been elevated to the heights of her proffession. He shot many frames, but he couldn’t quite find it through the lens, but then he suddenly got it. That look of exhausted happiness, the smell of the early dawn, the dizzy head, oh – what a night it must have been! This is something so personal that we rarely get to see.
About five years after this picture was taken O’Niell and Dunnaway married, but it only lasted three years and with one child, they divorced. In recent interview with the Guardian Terry said this about the picture. “She isn’t sure quite who she is any more. I waited for her to look away from the camera, and I got the shot. I look at this picture often, and I’m still so proud of it. It’s still the best Oscar picture ever taken. And modern photographers should take that as a challenge.”