Harry Benson: Getting by with a little help from his Fab Four friends

Harry Benson, photographed at the Scottish Parliament
Harry Benson, photographed at the Scottish Parliament
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IT WAS his intimate pictures of the Beatles that turned Harry Benson into a world-famous photographer. Now Glasgow-born Benson has compiled a new set of photos of the Fab Four.

The book, called Harry Benson – The Beatles, includes some familiar images, including the iconic photo of the Beatles enjoying a pillow fight in a hotel in Paris.

However, Benson says he has raided his archives for alternative shots of the band on their break-through tours of the US and Europe. His luminous black-and-white photographs show the Beatles composing, performing, encountering their fans, relaxing, and engaging with each other, while trying to cope with their increasingly isolating fame.

As well as hundreds of photos there is an essay by Benson as well as quotes and newspaper clippings from the period.

His limited edition book also includes recollections from the author, who writes about Muhammad Ali “bragging and clowning around” and how “aloof” the French were to the band during their 1964 visit.

Speaking about his latest collection and his relationship with the band, Benson said: “These photos convey a happy period for them and for me.

“It all comes down to music, they were the greatest band of the 20th century, and that’s why these photographs are so important.”

Benson began his career at the Hamilton Advertiser before moving to London’s Fleet Street where he worked for the Daily Sketch and the Daily Express.

In early 1964, he was getting on a plane for a foreign assignment in Africa, when he got a call from his photo editor telling him he was now going with the Beatles to Paris to document French Beatlemania.

Benson was warmly welcomed into the Beatles’ inner sanctum, resulting in some of the most intimate photographs ever taken of the band, then on the cusp of world domination.

As well as taking the iconic photograph of the Fab Four having a pillow fight at the George V hotel, he shot the Beatles’ ground-breaking first visit to the United States and the full impact of the hysteria they sparked in New York.

The relationship continued in 1966, including George Harrison’s honeymoon in Barbados and the band’s notorious American tour, under the shadow cast by Lennon’s comment that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus Christ.”

Benson has photographed 11 American presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, and was next to Robert Kennedy when he was shot.

He marched with Martin Luther King jnr during the Civil Rights movement and has photographed other global celebrities, ranging from leaders such as the Queen and Sir Winston Churchill, to Hollywood stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Brad Pitt.