The span of work of Harry Benson is huge. From kids in the Gorbals in the 1950’s
to Melania and Donald Trump in 2005.
Along the way he has photographed the Beatles, Dolly Parton, and every U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower and photographed the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
Born in Glasgow in 1929, expelled from school at 13, his dad bought him a camera with a view of keeping him out of trouble.
He started his photographic career doing weddings and then joined a local news agency and later went on to work for the Daily Sketch in Scotland.
He won the British Press Photographer of the year award in 1958 and moved to London where he found work with the Daily Express after he gate-crashed a party given by the son of the proprietor of the Daily Express.
While working for the Express a break came when in 1964 he was sent to cover the Beatles first tour of the USA.
His work received worldwide acclaim, mainly because of the closeness of his relationship with the Beatles. The ability to get up close with his subjects has been a recurring theme for his work.
1968 he left the Express to work for Time magazine, a lifetime ambition where he became one of their most prolific photographers.
His charm and wit got him into events and places that others would not have access to, but his Fleet Street nous was not far away. David Friend of Vanity Fair remembers ‘Benson was renowned for his stealth. He once swiped unsuspecting journalists’ shoes from outside their hotel-room doors (to get a jump on them in the morning).
On another occasion, after three of his competitors plotted to bounce him off a party guest list (so that he couldn’t photograph an evening affair), he repaid their sabotage in kind: retagging their bags at an airport luggage counter to ensure that their film would take a wayward route to the home office–by way of Rio.
Frank Spooner, Benson’s former picture editor at the Express, recalls: ‘Harry would always appear to have luck on his side. He always seemed to be getting the big shot. Harry made things happen. That’s what happens to good journalists. And I think he was about the best there was on Fleet Street.’