The Beatles -On the Road, 1964-1966
ISBN: 3836533227 Taschen
Feted British photographer Harry Benson first met the Beatles in 1964, when he was assigned to go to Paris and document their gig there at the Olympia Theatre. At the time the Beatles were rising stars, a phenomenon that has caught the attention of all major media outlets and they had been sending journalists and photographers to report about this band which was setting the world on fire, fast. Benson, who was on his way to Africa when his photo editor from the Daily Express phoned him about the assignment wasn't particularly interested in photographing musicians. After all, he was a documentary photographer. By his own admission, during the opening moments of the concert when he heard the band playing "All My Loving," while still in the hall he felt like he had the right story and that the trip will be worthwhile. And as some of the most interesting things in life come unexpectedly it opened up a door into an unusually exciting and colorful chapter in his illustrious career as a photographer.
Over the years, Harry Benson has photographed an incredible range of subjects and the list of people he has photographed reads like "who's who" of some of the most important and influential politicians, musicians, celebrities, sportsmen and newsmakers over the last five decades. From Winston Churchill and the Queen Elisabeth II to all US presidents starting from Eisenhower and Princesses Diana and Grace, from Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones. But Benson has captured his subjects during pivotal and seminal moments like Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign and the horror of Ethel Kennedy's face after the senator had been shot. He has worked as a war photographer on locations such as Bosnia and Iraq or Belfast during the Troubles. His work and numerous achievements were the reasons why he was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire, (CBE) by HRH Queen Elizabeth for his service to photography among other awards for his achievements over the years.
One of the most popular photographs ever taken of the Beatles is that when the band is having a pillow fight and are being silly, and nothing about it is staged. That evening the Beatles have found out that their song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" has climbed to the top of the charts in the US and that there is an invitation as well for the band to perform on the Ed Sullivan's show. The evident sheer joy and boyish optimism that would propel the Beatlemania phenomenon is said to have served as a balm to soothe the national grief and to boost America's national morale just 4 months after JFK's assassination. Maybe so, but the chief protagonists of this book were certainly aware of the tragedy but were certainly not aware of the importance of the events that were to follow. And it's this photograph that adorns the front cover of Harry Benson's collection of Beatles photographs, titled The Beatles -On the Road, 1964-1966 published by Taschen.
The photograph, which was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 that have marked the previous century, not only captures an important moment in the Beatles history, the joy and happiness of it, but it also showcases the access and trust that the Beatles have had about Benson to let him in their inner sanctum and take these photographs. Moments like this are almost impossible to find today. Much of today's press photographs are tightly controlled photographs and photographers rarely have an access to musicians' inner circles as in the past. Instead, the young photographer was granted a level of intimacy with these performers that is breath taking to behold.