Harry Benson shares anecdotes behind famous photographs

Benson has spent more than half a century pointing his lens at the greatest of the great.

After more than half a century of photojournalism all over the world, Harry Benson is so famous, a documentary film was made about his prolific career, “Harry Benson: Shoot First“. On November 17th in St. Louis comes the latest accolade for the British photographer: induction into the International Photography Hall of Fame located near St. Louis University.

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Benson viewed the 20th century the way few photographers have, by photographing the iconic and larger than life. 5 On Your Side asked Benson about some of his celebrity photos. No one can name drop or share behind the scenes stories like Benson.

Muhammad Ali with the Beatles

The Beatles with Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali: “John Lennon said no to begin with because Cassius Clay was a big mouth and he was going to get beaten. I get in a car, I pile the Beatles in. They think I’m going now to see Sonny Liston but I took them to Muhammad Ali who completely dwarfed them. Afterward the Beatles weren’t pleased with me. John Lennon said to me afterward ‘you know he made us look stupid and it’s your fault Benson.”

Robert F. Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy: “I was next to Bobby Kennedy when he was shot. A colleague asked me if I had nightmares about somebody being shot in front of me and I said I would have had nightmares if I hadn’t of done it” (shot the photos).

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson: “Every time I’d take his photograph he would say ‘Harry, I love your jacket’ and I would give it to him. And he wore them because I used to see him on tv and my wife would say ‘Michael Jackson is wearing your jacket.”

James Brown

James Brown: “It was a hot summer’s day and he would drive up to somebody’s yard, he would run out, do the splits then run back in the car again. That’s one of the pictures that do make me laugh because it was real and it was a moment.”

The Clintons

Bill and Hillary Clinton: “They were in love. No question about it. It was a love affair.”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump: “Still the same, just the same, showing off. I feel sorry for America because they’ve had some good presidents.”

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Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King: “He liked photographers being around because they were showing what in the hell is going on. He said to me ‘Harry, it’s terrible being a black person in this country.”

Here are more photographs from the iconic Harry Benson: