Harry Benson's Photos: The Real Thing

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I found the review of my exhibit, "Harry Benson: Being There," currently at the National Portrait Gallery, gratuitously mean-spirited and bewildering [Style, June 7]. I thought reporter Joel Garreau's job was to review the photos, not to present his idea of my personality -- his opinion of which I would beg to differ with.

He seems to have formed his opinions from reading the abbreviated captions at the exhibit, which cannot possibly tell the whole story.

Here's what happened regarding the pillow-fight photograph featured with the article. The Beatles had had a pillow fight before. I was with them when they heard the news that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was No. 1. I suggested they have another one. John said no. So that was that, as far as I was concerned. Then John sneaked up on Paul anyway, hit him in the head with a pillow, and they were off.

As for Mr. Garreau's dismissal of my photojournalistic credentials: What about being tear-gassed with Martin Luther King Jr.? Ignoring a curfew during the Watts riots to photograph a dead man? Photographing a woman and baby at a Ku Klux Klan meeting? The nightmare of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, with hysterical screaming all around? These were not staged.

Denigrating my 50-year career offhandedly without asking me directly to clarify his presumptions was very unfair. Mr. Garreau did not interview me, so I couldn't defend myself against his maliciousness. I would like your readers to judge my photos for themselves.

HARRY BENSON

New York

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Harry Benson's "stuff," as Post reporter Joel Garreau called the legendary photographer's work in his review of Mr. Benson's exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, is far from being "hokum."


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