Live Chat M-F 9am-5pm

‘Harry Benson: Get the Picture’ at Staley Wise

Art Scene

‘Harry Benson: Get the Picture’ at Staley Wise

World-renowned photojournalist/photographer, Harry Benson, has witnessed and captured some of the most significant events and widely recognized people in 20th century American history, at home and abroad. A native of Scotland, Benson moved to the United States in the 1950s, and by the late 1960s, began a lifelong relationship with LIFE Magazine as one of their go-to photographers.

A selection of Benson’s photographs of cultural and political personalities are on view in Harry Benson: Get the Picture at Staley Wise Gallery, a parallel exhibition that compliments the December 2016 release of a documentary on Benson’s life and career, Harry Benson: Shoot First. Creating a playful exhibition winding through several small, free-flowing rooms, the works on view feature numerous celebrities in relaxed and amusing environmental portraits. Installed salon style, groups of images fill several walls reflecting a collective merriment, most likely encouraged by Benson’s ability to engage with his subjects. The gallery’s back room also offers a treasure trove of works.

Photo: Anders Jones

In the first room of the exhibition, black and white images of several highly regarded figures in sports, fashion, art and culture populate the walls – Ian Fleming at Golden Eye in Jamaica, where he wrote several of his James Bond novels; Andy Warhol with an instamatic camera at his eye; Jack Nicholson in a series of contact sheet shots laughing and grimacing; and Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring, to name a few. Legendary fashion icon, Diana Vreeland, sits in a yoga-like pose with one arm shooting elegantly up in the air, the other arm erect and held firm by her hand’s delicate grip on her right knee. Vreeland’s ruffled white blouse, black trousers and shoes, coupled with the arm gestures, are reminiscent of a Baryshnikov ballet move.

Photo: Anders Jones

Vairous photographs in both black and white and color fill a wall in the next room, many of musicians enjoying themselves in the moment. In one image, James Brown does a split in the yard of someone’s house, with two friends laughing in the background. In another, Cyndi Lauper jumps on a bed singing, while Stevie Wonder “looks” into the camera. Both artists have their mouths wide open, harkening back to that youthful pastime of singing at the top of your lungs in your bedroom to your favorite tune.

Photo: Anders Jones

A striking image that takes up an entire wall is a color photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy from 1968. Her eyes are immediately recognizable, despite the fact that she wears a ski hat covering her head, chin, ears and nose. Sunglasses sit perched on her head, offering viewers a quick moment of recognition via Kennedy’s penetrating gaze, staring intently at something specific outside the right edge of the frame.

Photo: Anders Jones

Another photograph that captures the recreational side of political figures is a soft moment of intimacy between Hillary and Bill Clinton from 1992. Bill reclines in a hammock while Hillary leans in close. The couple is caught mid-sentence, perhaps pre-kiss, with eyes half closed. Yet another political couple is also on view, in a slightly staged portrait, Melania and Donald Trump in 2014. In what looks like a luxury high-rise apartment decked out in gold accents, Melania, wearing a black fitted knee length dress, sits demurely posed atop a bar with one hand on her hip and her calves strewn across Donald’s lap. His hands hold her ankles while he smiles at the camera, overjoyed.

Harry Benson: Get the Picture is on view through January 28th, 2017.

Submit a comment