President John F. Kennedy, Paris, 1961
Much can be said about Harry Benson. He's taken some of the most recognizable and iconic portraits of the 20th century. He has rubbed elbows with royalty. He is a master of the shiny celebrity portrait.
With a body of work covering more than fifty years, he's shot everyone from Princess Di and the Beatles to Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson. His most interesting work, to me, is his presidential portraits. Through the eyes or expressions of our presidents, we get to see a different side. It's a rare, and often candid moment, frozen in time.
"I’ve photographed every American president since Eisenhower. And I don’t leave my politics at the door. I would say that the Republicans are easier to work with than the Democrats. The Republicans aren’t so tricky. The Democrats are inclined to lie to you. If I’m photographing a Democrat president, they’ll have a White House photographer there as well most of the time—although Clinton never did. He dismissed them when he came into the room. But Reagan and Nixon were much easier to work with." - Harry Benson
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Palm Springs, 1965
President John F. Kennedy and President Charles de Gaulle, Paris, 1961
Kennedy visited Paris in the summer of his first year as president, and Parisians lined the streets cheering and craning for a glimpse of him riding with the French president in an open car. Honor guards in their plumed helmets and gold epaulets on their galloping horses surrounded the procession. It was what an official state visit should be: full of pomp and circumstance. John Kennedy Jr. asked me for a copy of this photograph for his office at George magazine. He thanked me with a note saying, "this was when politics was fun."
President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, New York 1964
President Richard M. Nixon, the Knesset, Israel, 1974
President Richard M. Nixon Resigns, Washington, D.C., August 1974
Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, saying farewell to his Cabinet and White House staff with his family by his side.
President Gerald Ford, 1974
President James E. Carter, The White House, 1979
President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, The White House, Washington, D.C., 1985
Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1992
The Clinton's share a quiet moment in the backyard of the Governor's Mansion before their hectic campaign schedule began.
President George W. Bush, Austin, 2000
President Barack Obama, The White House, 2009
A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Harry Benson became a photojournalist working for English newspapers in his early 20s. Assigned to cover the Beatles, he accompanied them to America in 1964 and then made New York his base. He began working for Life magazine in 1967 and subsequently worked for People, shooting over 100 covers, and is currently under contract to Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. He has had 38 one-man exhibitions of his photographs. His many books include Abrams' recent Harry Benson: 50 Years in Pictures.