Read an exclusive interview with Harry Benson
Harry Benson’s exquisite portraits and incisive photojournalism bring the world to a standstill, breathing life into slices of history, while at the same time preserving them for the future. In order to capture these moments, Benson has spent over 60 years making sure to be in the right place at the right time. More than anything, Benson guides history with his pictures by “getting at the center of the story, not the edges.” Born in Glasgow amid the drama of WWII with bombs dropping overhead, Benson managed to escape through the lens of a camera. His curious fortune struck when he was given a particular assignment in 1964: to capture The Beatles in France and on their first journey to the United States. This experience not only made for some of the most famous Beatles photography, but also sent Benson’s life in a completely new direction. Once he came to America, he never went back.
Benson has photographed an amazing range of subjects including eleven US presidents and their families from Eisenhower to Obama. Portraits of major forces of the last half of the 20th century include Sir Winston Churchill, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, The King of Spain, Princess Diana, Princess Grace and Princess Caroline of Monaco, Prince Philip, Andy Warhol, Mohammed Ali, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Greta Garbo, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Amy Winehouse, and Brad Pitt. During the civil war in the Dominican Republic, Benson was captured by both sides in one day. He caught the horror on Ethel Kennedy’s face after her husband Senator Robert Kennedy had been shot. Benson marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights movement, covered wars in the Gulf, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the list goes on.
In 2009, Benson was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire by HRH Queen Elizabeth for his service to photography. He was twice named NPPA Magazine Photographer of the Year and was twice awarded the Leica Medal of Excellence. In 2013 Benson received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and in 2009 one from Glasgow University and the Glasgow School of Art followed as well as becoming an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in London. Benson’s photographs are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.; Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow; and the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. His 60-year career as a photojournalist included a contract with LIFE Magazine and photographs on the covers and inside major magazines worldwide, including: Life, Time, Newsweek, Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Paris Match, G.Q., Esquire, W, The London Sunday Times Magazine, People, Vogue, and Architectural Digest. He has enjoyed 40 solo exhibitions and published 17 books including “The Beatles On the Road: 1964-1966” published by Taschen in 2013. Other books include: “Harry Benson: Photographs;” “New York New York;” “Harry Benson’s Glasgow;” “Harry Benson’s America;” “RFK;” and “Bobby Fischer.” Today he splits his time between New York City and Palm Beach, Florida and a feature length documentary will be released on his work in the near future.
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Harry Benson’s “Amy Winehouse, London” photograph
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated and legendary figures, Sir Winston Churchill. Perhaps Britain’s most revered prime minister, he stood defiantly against fascism becoming an inspirational figure for the...