Photographer Harry Benson visits Holyrood


The internationally acclaimed Scottish photographer Harry Benson arrived at Holyrood today ahead of his commission to take portrait photographs of Presiding Officer George Reid and the former Presiding Officer Sir David Steel.

New York based Mr Benson expressed delight at being back in Scotland and while touring the building said:

"It is great to be home and to be working at the Parliament. The building is fascinating and provides a great backdrop – you certainly could not be anywhere else in the world! It’s an honour to be one of the first to capture Scotland’s evolving political history.”

Born in Glasgow in 1929, Mr Benson made his name as a photographer of political events and well-known personalities after he covered The Beatles’ first trip to the United States in 1964.

As one of Scotland’s most accomplished photographers, he covered the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the fall of the Berlin Wall. His portraits have included Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and every US President since Eisenhower.

Speaking in advance of the photo shoot on Friday, Presiding Officer George Reid said:

"To be photographed by a man who has captured some of the people and events that have shaped our modern history is a privilege. He is a fascinating man.”

Senior officials supported by the Parliament’s Art Advisory Group took the decision to commission Mr Benson to create the portraiture as a permanent record of the first two Presiding Officers. The works will also be added to the small but significant collection of contemporary photography pieces within the Parliament’s art collection.

Art Advisory Group member and Director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Richard Calvocoressi has spoken of his support for the project.

He said:

"Harry Benson is one of the world’s top photographers; he also happens to be a Scot. His exhibition last year at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery drew nearly 40,000 people.

"It is important that the art acquired for the Scottish Parliament is of the highest quality, by Scotland’s leading artists – even if this means spending money. Future generations will, I hope, be grateful to us for not being content with second best."

Mr Benson will complete his commission on Friday. The portrait of Sir David Steel is expected be displayed at Holyrood from March. The Presiding Officer’s portrait will be displayed after he has left office in summer 2007.


Images of Mr Benson at Holyrood today have been sent to picture desks, alternatively please contact

The Art Advisory Group is made up of MSPs and representatives of the arts in Scotland . The group’s purpose is to advise on the purchase of art for the Parliament’s collection.

The MSPs on the group are Jamie Stone, Ken MacIntosh, Linda Fabiani and Jamie McGrigor.

Along with Richard Calvocoressi the external members are poet and dramatist Liz Lochhead and acclaimed Scottish artist Alison Watt.

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