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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

Farrah Fawcett

Photo of Farah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett was a student at the University of Texas in Austin at the same time my wife, Gigi, was there. It seems Farrah drank milk at lunchtime and watched TV soap operas every afternoon before moving to Hollywood to become an actress. Her infectious smile and piercing blue eyes catapulted her to superstardom in just one season on TV’s Charlie’s Angels (1976). I first photographed Farrah very early in her career (1970) at the Beverly Hills home of my friend, Jack Hansen, owner of the legendary club, The Daisy.

In the 1981 photograph shown here, Farrah arrived at my New York studio for a People magazine cover photo session. My young daughter, Tessa, was having a two-year-old tantrum when my wife, Gigi, answered the door. Farrah looked confused and asked if she was at the wrong apartment. We all laughed and assured her she had the right address. Farrah came alone and would not let the waiting hairdresser or make-up artist do anything as she did her own make-up and hair.

The photography went well and when she was leaving, I went outside to find a taxi as my doorman was in awe of his idol, and there was no waiting limousine. It was dusk and had started to rain. The falling light was perfect, so I asked her to stop at the phone booth on my corner for one last photograph (that pay phone is no longer there and has, of course, been replaced by a cell phone charging station). Using only the light inside the phone booth, this one turned out to be my favorite of the day. I always tend to prefer location photographs which I like to call “environmental photos” more than those taken in the studio.

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