Harry Benson came to the Community College of Southern Nevada to talk about his photos and life's work. I've seen his work before...who hasn't? However, what made this particularly a blessing to witness was the story behind his work. Its one thing to see his shots in a book. There might be a caption or a title accompanying the imagery. You get a sense of what's going on, where they are, maybe the different parties involved if its not already apparent. I went in expecting to hear about a man and his career...how it made it, his challenges, and his heart-breaks. I envisioned the man addressing us from a podium giving an hour long speech that he has probably done several times already that week. Well, part of that was accurate. He did come up to the podium and began a slide show of his images. But it wasn't just a man talking about what he's done. It was more akin to listening to your grand dad tell you about his exciting adventures that maybe you've already heard him tell many times before, but still enjoy hearing again.
You got to hear the story behind the shot. Some of it was as of a result of his own intuitiveness. However he also told us of how he once almost went to a bar or club with some friends, but instead felt inclined to go to the Ambassador Hotel. Robert Kennedy had just won the California primary. He told us of how it was too crowded to leave the way he came, so he decided to head out through the kitchen area instead. The rest is history. Just like his photographs, none of his stories were boring. You laughed, you cried....well, maybe not cried, but you could definitely feel the collective emotions in the auditorium no matter the mood. He was superb in his presentation and he continued to engage his audience, particularly doing so with interjecting jokes about his friends, Stacey and Michelle.
After the session, I was one of the final people to get to ask him a question. In the end, I got to talk to him for a bit and gave him a card. I had asked him to reflect on why we never see more introspective work of himself or those personally close to him, given that he's shot so many famous people. We never saw him or his family in any of his published work, despite the fact that he's so famous as well. Then I asked who would be the photog to shoot him, should he desire it, much the same way lawyers warn against representing themselves. His reply was sort of astonishing. He said, "I don't know. Maybe YOU!" Trying to be as quick, I responded with, "I don't know about that. I might be able to work you in before Christmas though!" In reality, I'd love to follow him around over the course of a few years just photographing him doing his thing whether that be working, or chilling out with the family. Great biographical work for some of my Legacy projects. I don't think I could do him justice writing it, but I know I could handle the pics department. Yeah, we need to get on this, HARRY!