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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 8 of Harry Benson’s Iconic Portraits

How a master celebrity photographer captures the world's most famous people
Photo of the Beatles Pillow Fight

Have you ever wondered about the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic images? Our series “Legendary Photos,” features photographers from Canon’s Legends program giving us behind-the-scenes insight on how they captured these unforgettable moments.

For this edition of Legendary Photos, portrait photographer Harry Benson shares the stories behind eight of his classic images.

(Editor’s note: You can see previous installments of Legendary Photos on Peter Read Miller here, Sam Abell here, Gregory Heisler here,  Ryszard Horowitz here, on Art Wolfe here, on Walter Iooss Jr. here, and on David Hume Kennerly here.)

The Beatles, Pillow Fight (Above)

Late one January night in 1964, after their performance at the Olympia in Paris, John, Paul, George and Ringo were sitting around talking in their suite at the George V Hotel when their manager, Brian Epstein, came in to say “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was number 1 on the American charts. That meant the Beatles were going to America to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show and I was going with them. After Epstein left the room, I suggested a pillow fight which they had mentioned having a few days earlier. Three said yes, but John said no, it would make them look silly, so that was that. Then John went into the other bedroom and came back in with a pillow, sneaked up behind Paul and hit him over the head. Paul spilled the drink in his hand and the fun ensued.

It went on for quite some time and I took what has become my favorite photo that night…of the Beatles having a pillow fight.  Over the years other photographers have asked the Beatles to have a pillow fight and they have refused, and I thank them for giving me the exclusive.

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