HARRY BENSON (born 1929)
Harry Benson was born in Glasgow, Scotland and started out as a wedding photographer before honing his native charm and guile in the competitive world of Fleet Street newspapers, working first for The Daily Sketch, then The Daily Express. He moved from there to LIFE magazine and Vanity Fair. Soon after his first arrival in New York on the flight that brought the Beatles to America (and which generated his iconic photographs of the band at the start of their worldwide fame), he became a resident of the United States, where he has lived and worked ever since.
Benson has photographed most of the defining moments in recent political history. He photographed the fall of Czechoslovakia, POW camps in Afghanistan, the communist regime in Romania, the I.R.A hunger strikes, and both the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. Benson was just feet away from Robert Kennedy the night he was assassinated and photographed the moments afterwards, as well as the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. As of 2019, Benson has also photographed every president of the United States since Eisenhower.
Harry Benson has twice won the prestigious National Press Photographer Association’s Magazine Photographer of the Year award, first in 1981 and then in 1985. He has also been awarded the 2005 Lucie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Portrait Photography and the 2005 American Photo Award for Photography. In 2009, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and also received an Honorary Fellowship in the Royal Photographic Society. In 2013, he received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of St. Andrews in his home country of Scotland and in 2017 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center of Photography in New York, where he now lives.
Benson has published 12 books of his work and has had over forty solo exhibitions of his photographs worldwide. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. and his photographs continue to be showcased in publications such as Vanity Fair, Town & Country, Architectural Digest, Time, and Newsweek.
In 2016, Magnolia Pictures released a feature-length documentary on Harry Benson titled Harry Benson: Shoot First and TIME magazine included his photograph of the Beatles “Pillowfight” on their list of the 100 Most Influential Images of All Time.