Harry Benson

Harry Benson

2005 Honoree: Outstanding Achievement in Portrait Photography


Heri Cartier-BressonNot all photographers begin their careers by documenting a world renowned band like the Beatles. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Harry Benson had no formal training before coming to the United States in 1964 to debut his career with the Fab Four. Instead of traveling home with the band, as anticipated, he decided to linger in America. Shorlty after he signed on with Life magazine. Now under contract to Vanity Fair, Benson’s photographs have appeared in major magazines across North America and Europe.

A witness to many of this century’s historic moments, Benson marched alongside Martin Luther King, stood next to Bobby Kennedy when he was shot, photographed every President since Eisenhower, covered the conflicts in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Iraq (Gulf War), and photographed numerous celebrities from Elizabeth Taylor to Michael Jackson.

His published works include Harry Benson on Photojournalism, Harmony Books, 1982; Harry Benson’s People, Mainstream, 1990; The Beatles in the Beginning, Universe, 1993; First Families: From the Kennedys to the Clintons, Bullfinch, 1997; amd The Beatles Now And Then, Universe, 1998. Harry’s retrospective, Harry Benson-50 Years in Pictures, was published by Harry Abrams in 2001, The President and Mrs. Reagan: An American Love Story, by Harry Abrams in 2003 along with his Beatles 40th anniversary book Once There Was A Way: Photographs of the Beatles by Harry Benson, which was accompanied by an exhibition in December 2003 at Christie’s in New York and at the Norton Museum of Art in 2004. Two other photo exhibits, First Families and The Beatles are currently touring the U.S. and Europe.

Aside from having been twice named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the National Press Photographer’s Association and twice the recipient of the Leica Medal of Excellence, Harry has also received the Madeline Dane Ross Award, had 40 one-man exhibitions and photos in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

His new book, Harry Benson’s America, Abrams, 2005, was awarded the American Photo Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award for 2005. There will be a comprehensive retrospective of Benson’s photographs at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from August to November 2006.

Benson lives in New York with his wife, Gigi, who works with him on his book projects. Their two grown daughters, Wendy and Tessa, live in Los Angeles.