John Benton–Harris was born in New York City, where he completed his formal education and obtained a diploma in commercial photography. However, he sees himself essentially as a self-taught photographer, whose commitment to “serious” photography dates back to his middle teens, although he received a scholarship from Alexey Brodovitch to attend his now legendary “Design Laboratory” at Richard Avedon’s studio in 1962.   His professional career as an Industrial Photographer with the Sinclair Oil Corporation started in 1961.   After a mandatory military service with the United States Army in Italy (also as a photographer) he took a European military discharge, to travel.  On his arrival in Britain, he took a staff position as a photographer with London Life Magazine in 1965, so he could take a longer, fairer, and deeper look at the English.   Today, John is still looking to explain man to his fellow man and to himself, on both sides of the Atlantic. He has no interest in a form of photojournalism that's become confused in tabloid practice.

John has lectured at art schools and universities, in both the UK and the USA. In 1987-88 he was appointed adjunct Professor of Photography at the University of Michigan’s School of Art. Now after 53 years of all-round creative activity, interest in his incisive imagery has escalated, and his views are now both sought and housed in numerous respected private and public collections in Great Britain, the United States, France and Spain.




Something more of My History



Selected One Person Exhibitions (UK, USA & Europe)


1971 Serpentine Gallery, London “Old Masters Were Young On"


1973 Impressions Gallery, York, England “A Walk in New York


1979 Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal “Derby Day”


1981 Photographers Gallery, LondonEngland, St Patrick’s Day, Streets of NYC”


1982 Foto gallery, Cardiff, South Wales Photos from England, Ireland & New York”


1983 Santa Fe Center of Photography, New Mexico, “Americans in Europe


1985 Impressions Gallery, York, Yorkshire England “Satire”


1988 Slusser Gallery, University of Michigan, U.S.A. “Eyeing the British Character”


1990 OK Harris Works of Fine Art, New York, U.S.A. “Mad Hatters Tea Party”


1997 Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham “Out for the Day” (Large 70’s Image show)


2007 AiPAD - The Photo Show, New York (April)


2007 photo-london - Old Billingsgate, London (May)                                                                    


2011 Shoreditch Gallery -The Juggler, London (October) "A Taste of the Big Apple"


2011 The 4th International Art Foto Festival - BielskoBials, Poland  (November) “Mad Hatters - a diary of a secret people”

(This last showing of “Mad Hatters - a diary of a secret people” in Poland can be viewed at It will shortly be available in book form.Also currently available from Blurb is my view of the 1981 Royal Wedding of Charles & Diana “The Wedding Party” published to coordinate with the most recent Royal wedding in 2011. It can be purchased or experienced by going to - 79


Selected British Traveling Group Shows

1979 Royal Academy of Art Derby Day 200”                                                                           

1980 Hayward Gallery, London “British Art 1949-1980”                                                           

1981 Arts Council of Great Britain, “The Photographer As Printmaker” (UK Tour)                 

1985 Barbican Art Gallery, London “American Images: Photography 1945-1980”                   

1989 Barbican Art Gallery “Through the Looking Glass”-Photographic Art 1945-1989            

1990 Portfolio Gallery, London, “L’Amour, a Celebration of Love”                                          

1991 Fermoy Gallery, Norfolk “The American Dream”                                                             

1995 Museum of London, London “Photographers London 1839-1994”                           

1999 Gallery Of Photography, Dublin “The Lightning Strikes and other stories…”                 

2004 Muse De Arts Contemporanea De Vigo, SpainO feito fotografico - MARCO”               

2004 National Portrait Gallery, London “Circling the Square”                                                    

2005 The National Portrait Gallery, LondonTrafalgar Square through the Camera"               

2008 Haywood Gallery, London   “Unpopular Culture”                                                             

2009 Haywood Gallery, London “No Such Thing as Society" (photography in Britain 1965-87) 

2010 National Portrait Gallery, London “Beatles to Bowie(the 60’s Exposed)                          

2011 Museum of London, London, "London Street Phoitography"


Biblography - Selected Photographic Essays and Articles: U.K.


1971 Creative Camera, “Boot Camp”, cover & portfolio


1971 Times Ed Supplement, “Self -made Photographer” portfolio


1971 Creative Camera, “A Walk in New York”, portfolio                                                          


1978 Creative Camera- Collection 5,”John Benton-Harris”


1978 Amateur Photography, 16 August, “Benton-Harris At Home”


1978 British Journal of Photography, “International Year of the Child”


1980 British Journal of Photography, 6 June, Derby Day”, portfolio


1980 Amateur Photography, 5 July, “Street Life”, portfolio


1982 Picture Mirror, June “An American Look’s at this English Race”


1982 Sunday Magazine, 30 May, “Cockney Revel”, portfolio


1989 British Journal of Photography, 8 June, Derby Day”


1989 Weekend Guardian, 18-19 March, “Saint Patrick’s Day”                                                 


1993 Weekend Guardian, 13 February, “Love Action”                                                               


1993 Dublin Tribune, 17 March, “Saint Patrick’s Day”                                                              


1993 Amateur Photography, w/e 20 March, “Day of Days”                                                        


1995 The Independent, 7 July, “The Car: 1896-1996”                                                                


1998 Amateur Photography, w/e 21 March, “Salad Days”, Derby Day


2000 British Journal of Photography, 22 March “Green Party”                                       



Bibliography - Selected Photographic Essays & Articles: U.S.A.     


1972 Time Life Books, Library of Photography, "The Great Themes" (International)                 


1977 Modern Photography, Great Images No-10 Oct "Yankee Eye on the English"                


1979 Nikon World, portfolio “A Personal View on British Children”                                       


1981 Camera 35, January, “The Parade” portfolio                                                                      


1983 Camera Arts, February “The Body English” portfolio                                                        


1988 Ann Arbour News, Sunday Arts, March “Eyeing the British Character”                          


1990 The Irish Voice, March “Pictures of a Celebration”                                                          


1991 The Irish American, March “St Patrick’s Day Parade"


Selected Seminars, Lectures and Talks

United Kingdom

Museum of London

Horniman Museum, London

Barbican Art Gallery, London

Photographers Gallery, London

Hayward Gallery, London

Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester

Usher Gallery, Lincoln

Watershed Gallery, Bristol

Scotish National Gallery, Edinburgh

Foto Gallery, Cardiff

Impressions Gallery, York

London College of Printing


University of Michigan School of Art, Ann Arbor Michigan                                                     

Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois                                                                                                       

Center for Creative Studies, Detroit Michigan                                                                                

New York University, New York                                                                                               

Parsons School of Design, New York                                                                                       

Museum of Contrmporary Photography, Chicago Illinonois                                                      

The New School of Social Research, New York                                                                        

School of Visual Arts, New York                                                                                                   

Rice University, Denver Colorado



1992 FNAC Galleries,Paris France, "Mois de la Photo"


1992 Centro de Estudas Fotograpficos, Vigo, Spain "Fotobienal"


2010 The 4th International Art Foto Festival - Bielsko-Biala, Poland 



Works in Public and Museum Collections


Museum of the City of New York, New York


Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York


New York Public Library, New York


Art Institute of Photography, Chicago, Illinois


Museum of Contemporary Photogrphy, Chicago, Illinois


Arts Council of England, London, England


Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England


National Portrait Gallery, London, England


Centro de Estudos Fotograficos, Vigo, Spain


Bibliotheque National, Paris, France


Major Curatorial Ventures

As an adjunct to my commitment to seeing, I have also researched, co-curated, designed and installed three large-scale photographic exhibitions for the Barbican Art gallery and the Corporation of London.


1985 “American Images - Photography 1945 - 1980” (Touring Show)                                   


1986 "Let Truth Be the Prejudice" (Touring Show)                                                                


1989 "Through the Looking Glass" Photography Art in Britain 1945-1980 (Touring Show)


In Closing

As can be seen from my life-long commitment to photographic seeing and photography, I was never interested in illustrating the thoughts, ideas, and storylines of others. I camera talked about what interested me, and sometimes (not all that often, I must admit) others paid attention and commissioned me, or bought into what I was interested in. This admission may go some way towards explain why I’m not thought to be what is referred to today as a “hot photographer” in the commercial marketplace.


All this never bothered me much, for what surely matters most is one's subject and mental focus in seeing, not how others see me, and that still remains true today. But what does irk me (and I’m not alone in this) is that some self-employed photographers persist in believe themselves to be “Independent Photographers” even though they are led by editorial forces and art market dictates. This is not unlike press photographers referring to themselves photojournalists just because they record the news. To clarify what I believe it takes to be a photojournalist, I have formulated and acted upon the thought contained within this modest list:


(1)   As a photographer, my responsibility is to the moment, the message and myself. I must seek a public who will understand and accept the content of my vision, rather than dilute or pervert it to fit a particular idea of public need.


(2)   To the photojournalist, an image is not just an image; although it deals with the real or actual, it is a blend of fact and opinion. The photographer's approach to life is always personalised.


(3)   In photojournalism, pictures are dominant. Photojournalism is a blend of pictures that speak, in conjunction with words that help picture.


(4)   The photojournalist must first learn to focus the mind before engaging the eye.


(5)   Good picture journalism is the byproduct of mature individuals who know how to stop, entertain and intrigue the viewer into thinking by interpreting their observations in terms of their understanding of truth.


(6)   Artificial style restricts growth, true style is having the courage to let the subject dictate to you. How and what should be seen, based on your understanding and what you want to communicate.


(7)   Photojournalism is not fifty percent photographs and fifty percent words, it's one hundred percent photographs and one hundred percent words.


(8)   Photojournalism lives where the photographer’s view and views are respected, and does not, where they are not.


(9)   In photojournalism, it's not where you are but what you bring to where you are- mainly your understanding, personality, curiosity and informed sensibility as well as a willingness to allow the subject to impose itself on you.


(10) There is no such thing as one-shot photojournalism; it needs page space to refine, condense and crystallise thought. The subject interpretation is mainly the photographer's knowledge, personality, and life experience.


(11) Photojournalism is not, where many think it to be, alive and well in “newspapers”. It's not even where it once was in “magazines”, it has migrated to where it is allowed to be and where the space is: “Books”.


(12) To be a press photographer, one must merely be determined, display cunning, aggression, and have a nose for news. But to be a photojournalist, one must be part storyteller, poet, visionary, method actor, detective, ballet dancer, matador, magician, philosopher, social worker and historian.


Copyright John Benton-Harris 2013 


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