Celebrity Photog Harry Benson on Donald Trump: "He's Good for Our Business"

At a screening of his new doc, Benson recalled a photoshoot where Trump posed with $1 million in cash.
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Harry Benson

Could Harry Benson become the Chief Official White House Photographer?

The 87-year-old photojournalist and celebrity photographer, and subject of documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, has had good luck in the past when it comes to photographing President-elect Donald Trump. The documentary, acquired by Magnolia Pictures, shows many times Benson has snapped the real estate tycoon-turned-politician, including one particular instance in 1990 when he convinced Trump to pose holding $1 million in cash. "The money, the money! That was my idea. The money shows greed," Benson recalled at the afterparty for the screening held by The Cinema Society at The Carlyle in New York.

Trump, however, didn't seem to mind. "As long as he makes me look good, I'm happy," the president-elect said of Benson in the documentary, which will be released on Dec. 9. Benson, perhaps best known for his pillow-fighting images of The Beatles that launched his career, has shot many controversial figures — and pictures — over the years, including Ku Klux Klan leader Robert Shelton in the 1960s; Elizabeth Taylor just hours after her brain surgery in 1997; a breast-feeding Deborah Norville in 1991 that may have cost the Today anchor her job; playful pictures of Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon in 1980; and a distraught Ethel Kennedy only moments after Bobby Kennedy's 1968 assassination.

The image shows her reaching up to block Benson's camera lens. He also has intimately shot every president since Eisenhower. But will he again get a chance to photograph the president-elect? "I don't know," he shrugged. "But I'll tell you something about Donald Trump. He's good for our business. He's a character. You don't leave empty-handed. You get a picture. He'll give the photographers a lot of good pictures; he'll give the writers good quotes. That's what it means; you're working and it's important in your life." 

With no plans to retire anytime soon, the 87-year-old still has people on his bucket list he'd like to shoot, despite having captured the majority of the heavy-hitters. At the top of the list? "I'd like to do [Vladimir] Putin," he said at The Carlyle (the evening was feting the screening but also his 87th birthday). "I don't know [what I'd ask him], but I'd like to photograph him." 

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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