Lens of a Legend: Harry Benson Photographs
May 31 – Jul 7, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 30, 2013
Contessa Gallery Announces Exhibition, Lens of a Legend: Harry Benson Photographs, May 31 – July 7, 2013
Contessa Gallery is pleased to present a one-man exhibition by the award-winning photographer Harry Benson. Arriving in America with the Beatles in 1964, Benson has spent his six-decade career photographing politicians, musicians, actors, athletes, writers, artists, soldiers, and activists. Considered the finest photographic chronicler of American pop culture, Benson has photographed every U.S. president from Eisenhower to Barack Obama. He was feet away when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated; in the room when Nixon resigned; with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Meredith march; and with Coretta Scott King at her husband’s funeral. Benson chronicled the building of the Berlin wall and its fall, and covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Benson has had more than forty solo gallery exhibitions and has had sixteen books of his photography published. Contessa Gallery’s exhibition, Lens of a Legend: Harry Benson Photographs, is in conjunction with the release of Benson’s newest book, The Beatles: On the Road 1964-1966.
“Harry, don’t tell Cartier-Bresson, or Penn, or Avedon, or Scavullo or the sweet departed spirit of Sir Cecil Beaton, but you are my favorite photographer.”
- Truman Capote, American author
“I’m a photographer,” Benson explains, “Thinking doesn’t get you there. I’m watching – recording. I don’t want to know much. It’s how you’re going to move that’s what you think of. I do the opposite of the expected. I’m there to get in and get out – not to meet people and come home wagging my tail.” Benson has taken over one-hundred cover shots for People Magazine, and his photography has been featured in Architectural Digest and Newsweek. He was under contract with LIFE Magazine from 1970 to 2000. Barbara Baker Burrows, his picture editor at LIFE magazine, noted: “He invariably extracts a person’s soul in a single image, subtly cultivating a subject’s character without the subject even knowing it.” David Schonauer, former editor of American Photo Magazine, said of Benson: “He knows when to stand back from a subject, and when to move in. And when he moves in, it’s for the kill.”
Harry Benson was born near Glasgow, Scotland in 1929 and was assigned to travel with the Beatles on their first American tour in 1964. Benson describes the night in which he learned that he would be traveling to America with the band: “Late one night in January 1964, the phone rang in my London flat. It was the night picture editor of a London newspaper, asking me to fly to Paris with the Beatles to cover their first trip abroad as England’s top popstars.” That phone call is where Benson’s exclusive relationship with the Beatles began, and still continues. One of Benson’s most iconic images shows the band in a gleeful pillow fight in a hotel room after learning that they were going to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. This image displays one of the band’s rare unguarded moments, marking the moment before the band changed American pop culture forever.
The Beatles: On the Road 1964 – 1966 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. This beautiful book includes intimate portraits from the famous pillow fight at the Georges V hotel to the hysterical young female crowds, from TV studios to backstage… Benson’s camera captured everything.
Benson received the 2005 LUCIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in Photography and the 2005 American Photo Magazine Award for Achievement in Photography. He was awarded the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scottish Press Photographers Association and has received the Leica Medal of Excellence twice. In 2009, Benson was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Benson’s photography is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, amongst many others. Both museums exhibited the 2006-2007 exhibition, Harry Benson: Being There, and the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow held a major retrospective of the photographer in 2008.
Harry Benson will be present at the exhibition openings on Friday, May 31st and Saturday, June 1st from 6 – 9pm and will premier his new book published by Taschen Books titled The Beatles: On the Road 1964-1966.