In Harry Benson's 60-year career, he has captured photographs of icons and events that have shaped political, sporting and pop culture, as well as documenting the character of his native Glasgow. This summer, the city's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum hosts a comprehensive display of Benson's work, hailed as a "homecoming exhibition".
Photography shows are the most accessible form of arts attraction and Benson's is no exception: the image at the entrance to the exhibition – a huge photograph of the Beatles mid-pillow fight – graphically illustrates the favoured position he has commanded throughout his career. Inside, the images are of Hollywood idols, US presidents, harassed soldiers, sporting heroes and nameless Glasgow residents. Benson's intimate style of portraiture draws out his subjects' characters in such a way as to make each sitter appear equal in status: a dreamy image of Goldie Hawn sits comfortably near a haunting shot of a teenage girl in a Glasgow slum, despite the social chasm between the two.
The portraits of Glasgow reflect Benson's personal view of the city, but don't veil the grittier aspects of its past (one graffiti-sprawled wall has a stark message: "Let Glasgow flourish in filth and slums"). Despite this, the depictions of historical poverty are artfully used to emphasis the friendliness distinctive to Glasgow and cleverly juxtaposed with images of a thriving modern metropolis.
The most engaging aspect of this show is that each image is accompanied by an anecdote written by Benson himself, providing an insight into the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photograph. These informal footnotes bring each picture alive while managing to disoblige us of the notion that Benson is star-struck by his subjects. One surreal caption accompanying a photograph of James Brown tells how the star ran into a stranger's garden, fell into the splits shouting "I feel fine!", then promptly sprinted away.
The beauty of this exhibition lies in the way it showcases Benson's commitment to exposing raw human personality: his portraits are intimate and revealing, regardless of the subject's status. Having worked extensively for Time and Vanity Fair, Benson has enjoyed privileged access to some of the most famous people of his lifetime, but still finds charm and beauty in scenes familiar to us all, seen through the eyes of an accomplished artist.
To 14 Sept (0141-276 9599; www.glasgowmuseums.com)
Michelle Williams, student, GlasgowReuse content