The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you believe that, then the photography of legendary photojournalist Harry Benson speaks volumes of raw truth. His works have defined a generation, voiced awareness to calamities in economically devastated countries, and lent closure to the end of an era.
Harry Benson’s work crosses genre, age, and culture by bridging the gap between what makes celebrities seem untouchable and transforming them into unfabricated beings within their natural states. Benson’s photographs are famous for their uninhibited, off guard and often graphic quality. Benson’s talent lies in his ability to capture moments in time that remain classic and timeless at an effortless degree. Such moments include snapping The Beatles famed hotel pillow fight, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow caught donning masquerades at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, and even Elizabeth Taylor during her most vulnerable stage in life after undergoing surgery where a large visible scar scans her newly shaved head.
Such candid events were Harry’s ideal subjects to encompass in print. However, celebrities like rock stars and actors were not his only subjects for creative outlet. Benson has photographed former presidents, political candidates and the like. Benson’s gone from shooting the end of Nixon’s presidency upon resignation during an intimate photoshoot depicting the least-often viewed and understood aspect of Nixon at his home. To encapsulating Ronald and Nancy Reagan for the cover of Vanity Fair as they waltzed gazing into each other’s eyes showing the intimacy of their long relationship and the tenderness of a devoted marriage. Most infamously, following the tragic and sudden death of his longtime friend John Lennon, Benson was able to shoot exclusive photos of the assailant Mark David Chapman. Of all Benson’s photographic endeavors and locales, his most profoundly enlightening was his exposé revealing the utter destitution of the nations of Somalia and Vietnam, where poverty, disease, and war left families completely deficient. By his photographs, Harry made it possible to help spread awareness to the plight of the world with intense photos of impoverished countries and people that could no longer be denied.
Through his lens, Harry has provided a glimpse into the personal, tragic, and tender lives of some of the world’s most prolific and infamous figures in history. Not many photographers have matched his eye for understated beauty and his way of pulling out comical aspects of more serious subjects. These charming qualities are what makes Harry timeless and classic just like his photographs and the subjects of them that have come and passed.