Harry Benson

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Harry Benson
Reagan with Harry Benson.jpg
President Ronald Reagan poses for Benson on the balcony of the Ronald Reagan Suite, Century Plaza Hotel, August 28, 1987
Born Harry James Benson
(1929-12-02) December 2, 1929 (age 87)
Glasgow, Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Occupation Photographer
Notable work The Beatles inaugural trip to the United States (1964)
Awards Lifetime Achievement Award, Scottish Press Photography Awards
Website harrybenson.com

Harry James Benson is a Scottish photographer. His photographs of celebrities have been published in magazines. He has published several books and won a number of prominent awards.

Life and work[edit]

Benson was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

His pictures have appeared in Life,[1]Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker.[2] He took over a hundred cover shots for People.

Benson was assigned to travel with The Beatles on their inaugural American tour in 1964. One of his most recognizable images shows the band in a gleeful pillow fight in a hotel room[3][4] in Paris[5] Other celebrities Benson has photographed include Bobby Fischer, Michael Jackson, who allowed him access to his bedroom, and Elizabeth Taylor, whom Benson photographed before and after her brain surgery. He has also photographed political figures, including every US president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, and covered war zones. Benson was standing next to Robert F. Kennedy when the Senator was shot on June 5, 1968 and has remarked on the difficulty of steeling himself in order to document the historic moment: "I kept telling myself 'this is for history, pull yourself together, fail tomorrow, not today'."[6]

Benson has been the subject of many exhibitions, including one organized by the Scottish National Portrait Galley at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.[7]

He has published several books.

Benson was the recipient of the 2005 Lucie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Portrait Photography and the 2005 American Photo Award for Photography.[8] He has twice been named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association (1981 and 1985).[9] He was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Press Photography Awards in April 2006.[9] Benson was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2009. Benson was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.[10] In 2014, he took an official photographic portrait of the Queen, commissioned by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. This was over fifty years after his first portrait of the Queen, taken when she opened a coal mine in 1957.[11]

He was the subject of a BBC Scotland documentary titled Photography: Harry Benson (1985), directed by Ken MacGregor and written by William McIlvanney.[12]

His daughter is American actress Wendy Benson.



  1. ^ He officially joined the staff January 1, 1973, just before Life suspended weekly publication December 29, 1972, and thereafter he contributed to the monthly publicationLoengard, John (1998), Life photographers : what they saw, Little, Brown, ISBN 978-0-8212-2455-7 
  2. ^ Elbies, Jeffrey. "Harry Benson's America". Popular Photography. Bonnier Corp. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Mitsui, Evan (Nov 16, 2013). "Harry Benson's photos of the Beatles sparked career". CBC News. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Photographer Harry Benson on Working with The Beatles". The Hollywood Reporter. June 25, 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Beatles' Breakout Moment: The Story Behind This Famous Throwback Photo". Time Inc. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Benson, Harry. "RFK's Assassination, The Reagans Dancing, The Clintons Kissing: The Photographs Of Harry Benson". HuffPost Books. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "Being There -- Harry Benson's Fifty Years of Photojournalism". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Harry Benson". Canon DLC. Canon U.S.A., Inc. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "No. 58929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2008. p. 24. 
  10. ^ "The Queen's new portrait - 50 years after Harry Benson's first photograph of Her Majesty". Telegraph. 
  11. ^ "Photography: Harry Benson (1985)". BFI Film Forever. British Film Institute. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 

External links[edit]