Renowned photographer Harry Benson’s lens has captured some of the most enigmatic people of our time, from Jackie O to Yoko Ono. To celebrate the launch of his new book, New York New York (Powerhouse), Benson shares with Wsome of the memorable moments and impressions from his shoots.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg riding the subway like an ordinary straphanger.(above)
New York City, 2002. “The mayor, whom I first met when our children were in nursery school together, has always been a down-to-earth, no-nonsense person. He knew the fastest way to get downtown was on the subway, so on the subway we went. “
Brooke Astor in her apartment at 778 Park Avenue, New York City, 1980.
“Mrs. Astor loved Dachshunds and so do I, and we had that in common when I photographed her. She was a bit flirty and kicked off her shoes and put her feet up without giving it a second thought.”
“I first photographed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in London in 1961 shortly after JFK had been elected president and then again in 1962 when she visited her sister, Lee, who lived in London. One day I was walking home up Fifth Avenue and a cab happened to pull up to the curb beside me. I looked up, and there she was. So I waved, she smiled, and I took a photograph.”
“Fosse is the only person to win an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award in one year. Who can even comprehend what that would be like? In his apartment filled with memorabilia from his many hit shows, I asked him to show me some of his iconic dance moves, and he obliged.”
“We had never met before, but the esteemed artist was very obliging as I photographed him in his unique townhouse. He told Hilary and me that he was leaving the next day for Europe, so we were happy to catch him before he left. The next week my wife, Gigi, and I flew to Italy and visited a friend on his wonderful island quite near Positano. We walked and walked up a steep hill to the top of the island, and there to greet us was our host—you guessed it, Julian Schnabel.“
“I liked him. Don't be fooled by his high squeaky voice. Truman was a tough little man. He had an uncanny way of reading your mind. Always up for a good time, he was not afraid to march to his own drummer. “
“I photographed Halston quite a few times over the years and always found him to be the most obliging subject. He knew a good photograph was what I was after and he was happy to help me get one.”
“Since I had first photographed the Beatles in 1964, I was pleased to photograph John's wife and son in the park that he loved. I could see why John fell in love with Yoko: she was smart, attractive, and strong, and she was raising Sean the way she knew John would have wanted.”
“I was taking photographs of Diane at her estate in Connecticut when her Dalmation jumped up onto her bed. I thought that would be a good picture so I asked Diane to get in bed, too, as I like to see people in their natural environment.”
“When I arrived at Giorgio Armani's store on Madison Avenue, he asked me what I wanted him to do. Jokingly, I said what about photographing in the store window and having Ashley take off her top. Thinking I was serious, to my surprise they agreed. Traffic came to a standstill on Madison and the sidewalks were crowded with people as everyone wanted to see what was going on.”
“Halston was a great couturier, even the French said he was the best. His clothes withstand the test of time. He worked hard and he played hard and that night he was having fun behind the sign at Studio 54 with his pals--Lorna Luft, Steve Rubel, and Victor Hugo.”
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