T Gallery Debuts with Harry Benson ‘Through the Lens’ in Southampton

Jackie Kennedy in Ski Hat, 1968 ©Harry Benson
Jackie Kennedy in Ski Hat, 1968 (cropped), Photo: ©Harry Benson

At a time when you’re more likely to see local galleries closing or downsizing, a brand new venue, Southampton’s T Gallery, is opening with bold optimism and a fresh crop of artists that will surely make it a standout in the Hamptons scene.

Helmed by former J. Crew Talent Director and agent for some of the world’s most famous celebrity and fashion photographers, Therese Ryan Mahar, T Gallery is launching its series of summer exhibitions this Friday, May 5. The inaugural show, Through the Lens, offers a selection of images by legendary photographer Harry Benson, and Mahar couldn’t be more thrilled.

“Harry is one of photography’s greatest rebels,” the new gallerist says of the 87-year-old Scotland native, known for photographing many of the most important people and moments in history and pop culture, including Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Robert F. Kennedy assassination, to name a few. “His talents cannot be categorized,” Mahar continues. “Most photographers have one or two areas they specialize in, but Harry’s range is limitless.”

“You want to try other things, but you don’t want to go too far off of what you do,” Benson says describing the work in Through the Lens. “I don’t like studio work, although I’ve done a lot of it…but I like pictures to be spontaneous and with movement, and it could never happen again,” he adds. “And that, to me, is a good photograph.”

Mahar and Benson have been friends now for some years, and she’s very excited to be exhibiting three photographs from his archive that have never been shown in large format at a gallery before. “I’m really excited about those,” Mahar says. “One of the things that keeps me so fascinated with Harry is I think the world is really aware of a certain body of work, but his archives are limitless.”

Glasgow Boys in Fountain, 1956 ©Harry Benson
Glasgow Boys in Fountain, 1956 ©Harry Benson

But above all, “Harry’s work is such truth,” Mahar says, getting to what makes Benson’s photographs so great, whether he’s shooting Civil Rights marches or a Somali refugee camp—one of the images featured in “Through the Lens”—or celebrities and wealthy Palm Beach socialites. “His gritty stuff, his war stuff—that’s my favorite,” Mahar notes.

“Everybody is important, no one wants to pass this way unnoticed,” Benson says, clearly aware of the responsibility that comes with immortalizing his subjects for posterity, and doing it authentically, no matter who’s on the other side of his lens. “They’re all human beings, they’re all going to die,” he points out.

“Basically, it was all about life,” Benson continues, remarking on the common thread through his entire body of work. “When I’m talking to you, I’m talking through photographs,” he says.

“A lot of things you hear are not true and it didn’t happen like that, but photographs don’t lie,” Benson continues. “You’re looking for that moment and I’m not telling people to do this and that, and I’m not posing them. They’re spontaneous. The picture happened. It’s not a manipulated photograph—it happened, and that’s real.”

Harry Benson’s photographs will be on view in “Through the Lens” at T Gallery in Southampton, 4C North Main Street, May 5–June 23. An opening reception with the artist is scheduled for Sunday, May 28, from 5–7 p.m.

Call 212-679-8585 or visit tgallery.com for more information.

T Gallery owner Therese Mahar
T Gallery owner Therese Mahar, Photo: Courtesy T Gallery