Film’s obsession with the criminal underworld of the 1960s and ’70s is explored in Hollywood Reloaded, a collaborative exhibition showcasing the work of photographer Terry O’Neill and artist Bran Symondson, which opened at London’s HOFA Gallery this week and will run until October 14.
Portraits of stars such as Michael Caine, Brigitte Bardot and Roger Moore, each with a firearm in hand, are pockmarked by bullets fired by ex-Special Forces serviceman-turned-artist-and-reportage photographer Symondson. “I sourced the ‘actual’ make and model of the guns Terry depicts in his images, and then physically shot through each on the reserve to produce authentic bullet holes in the canvases,” he says. “The idea of shooting through some of Terry’s best work might sound unusual or even crazy, but I was ensnared with how guns are almost glamorised in these classic photographs. The relationship between America and guns is obviously a very pertinent topic and this work gives both a flashback into the history of Hollywood’s fascination with gun-wielding poses and also delivers my own message around choosing peace and beauty over war and hate.”
Of course, Symondson has been behind similarly provocative works of art. In 2012, he persuaded the cream of British artists to decorate decommissioned AK-47 rifles for his AKA Peace exhibition – transforming the weapons from symbols of fear to tokens of peace. The works available in this new collection range in price from £12,000 to £32,000, but iconic images such as that of Frank Sinatra can be bought for £14,000, while those of Michael Caine and Brigitte Bardot are £17,500 each.
The creator of the original works is delighted with Symondson’s artistic intervention. “What Bran has done with my photographs is astounding,” says O’Neill. “He’s taken such time and consideration when creating his art – he really has transformed my photographs into something entirely his own. It’s been a thrill for me to work with a young artist such as Bran, to listen to his thoughts and process. I can’t be more pleased with the results.”