Last weekend, Andover students and local residents alike flooded into Kemper Auditorium to attend photojournalist Harry Benson’s Q&A session. After speaking about the choices behind his work at the American Gallery of American Art’s newest exhibition: “Harry Benson: Four Stories,” Benson was greeted by a long line of audience members who waited to connect with him individually.
“The talk in Kemper was phenomenal, it was completely full…. There were a lot of people that were really excited to meet with him…. People were buying catalogs, and having him sign them. People printed out some of his photographs, and then would have him sign them. He really enjoyed meeting people, and talking to them…. It was a great night,” said Jamie Gibbons, Director of Education at the Addison.
The exhibition focused on four stories from Benson’s early work in the 1960s: the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Beatles’ inaugural tour of the US, the presidential campaign and assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), and the James Meredith March Against Fear. Gibbons described her admiration for Benson’s nuanced framing of historical moments.
“[Benson] has this, not only a knack for being in the right place at the right time, but also, an intrepid spirit that prompts him to jump on a plane when he hears that something is going to be happening in Berlin… I think that there are a lot of lessons in this exhibition about figuring out what the decisive moments are, like what are the moments that need to be documented for history, and how can you use images to tell the story,” said Gibbons.
According to Tessa Hite, curator of the “Four Stories,” she hoped that the exhibition would not only shed light on Benson’s career but also allow students to think about how Benson’s photographs resonate today. Hite also described her favorite pieces of the exhibit, naming Benson’s work with the Beatles and RFK as highlights.
“One particular favorite [piece] is a photograph of the Beatles composing a song in 1964. It depicts one of the most iconic bands in a way that feels personal and intimate, which I think is characteristic of Benson’s photographs. The photographs of RFK are also particularly harrowing, because the joy and hope of his presidential campaign are evident, and then Benson so vividly captured the tragedy and chaos of RFK’s assassination,” wrote Hite in an email to The Phillipian.
Many students who visited the reception also expressed their admiration for Benson’s work. Attendee Kashvi Ramani ’24 explained that she enjoyed seeing how each photograph came together to tell a historical story.
“I thought that really stood out to me because there was a lot happening in that small frame where it wasn’t moving, but it felt like it was moving. It felt like it came to life, and I was seeing it unfold in front of my eyes. And just reading the biography and then seeing the piece itself, it really stood out to me when I pieced them together,” said Ramani.