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Photo journalist Harry Benson reflects on iconic career before receiving award in St. Louis

Gigi Benson
Contributed Photo

Some of the most famous photographs of past celebrities were taken by one man – photo journalist Harry Benson. He’s photographed all the presidents since Eisenhower, Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and Richard Nixon’s resignation.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked to 87-year-old Scottish-born Benson about his iconic career.

The multi-award winning photo journalist will be awarded in St. Louis and inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. He said he appreciates the award but that it was never his objective when he started his career.

“I wasn’t thinking of any awards,” Benson said. “…Basically, [I] just wanted to stay on the payroll at the end of the week.”

In regards to his work, he said he was never choosy. One day he would photograph The Beatles and the next he could be at the White House or covering a traffic accident. But sometimes, luck was on his side as well. He happened to be at the scene of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. Amid the chaos, he took the iconic photo tied to that tragic event.

“It’s not three-cheers for photographers in these situations. But I said to myself, ‘This is history, I’ve got to do it,” he said. He still sometimes wakes up at night and thinks about the assassination, but “would have had nightmares” if he hadn’t captured the moment.

Other celebrities Benson’s captured include Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor.

Listen below to Benson share his experiences photographing The Beatles, Reagans, and of world chess champion Bobby Fischer kissing a horse:


St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.