Thursday, January 14, 2010


*All photos by Harley Benson

Wanna fall head over heels in love with Rock n' Roll? Then let's take a peek through the camera lens of Teen photographer Harley Benson who has spent her entire life growing up as the Princess of "Casa de Benson" the record producing/ music publishing Empire ruled by her Dad 2, time Grammy nominee record producer Howard Benson who has seemed to fashion the radio and rock sounds of the two thousands (2000s) standing behind the glass of his L.A. recording studio like a sea captain at the helm of his ship controlling the album's course through a series of recording and engineering tricks from lead singer's vocals to heavy rock guitar licks and navigating his bands to produce hit after hits such as POD, DAUGHTRY, ALL AMERICAN REJECTS, HOOBASTANK, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, and THEORY OF A DEADMAN.

And her mom, Monica Benson one of L.A.'s most successful female music publishers who has placed songs in many hit TV Series such as Ugly Betty, CSI NY, the OC as well as popular Movie blockbusters like Miss Congeniality staring Sandra Bullock.

From all night recording sessions to summer music festivals in front of thousands of screaming fans, Harley, her mom and dad, and her brother Grady have seen it all - that is the family business of rock n¡¯ roll. Harley heavily influenced by talent for scouting hit bands for her dad along with her outgoing and friendly personality fits in well with the Casa de Benson motto "Make Hit Records". Harley has found her own niche in the music biz as a rock n' roll photographer capturing the lifestyle of famous rock stars who walk in and out of Casa de Benson like a revolving door capturing their images for historical lore of what it must have been like to be part of the 21st Century Rock Tour. Harley has an amazing eye for getting the shot of the day- the one that says "Rock Star" no matter what her subject may be - a school kid, a relative, or a stranger, the subject's personality is captured so magically in a smile or a pout as her lens hones in on her subject. So rev up your motor and get ready for a wild ride as Harley Benson takes you on a rock n roll tour through her camera lens!

1. Hey Harley we have been friends since we were little girls and one thing that I have noticed about you is that you are really talented and you have an ear for hit songs. One time in particular stands out in my mind, you and I were sitting in the backseat of my parents' car on the way to some museum and you asked by dad to turn up the radio. I swear you knew the words to every song. But when did your love for photography begin?

Haha that's funny, yeah I tend to remember songs really easily, I don't know how I guess it just comes naturally.

I guess my interest in photography started in middle school. I remember always wanting to be in everyone else's pictures and then I got a camera for my birthday and I thought it was the coolest thing. So I started taking pictures of myself first because it was cool back then and then I brought it into classes and just started randomly taking pictures during and outside school. It just escalated from there.

2. You and I have always been pretty entrepreneurial maybe because we are both ambitious types and we grew up around so many famous people in the entertainment industry that it just rubbed off. I created my fashion company at age 9 and you were one of my first friends to actually buy and wear my stuff. You now offer your photography services through your own company Harley Benson Photography right? How is business going? How do people find out about your photography services?

Yes we have both been very entrepreneurial, I actually was JUST packing for Hawaii and found a beanie from your clothing company that I bought from you years ago! Business is okay, a little slow because I have been so busy with college applications this year. But usually people find out about me through friends or just because they're friends of mine that know I always take pictures of everybody. Or through my parents and family/family friends.

3. How did you learn to use camera equipment and take photographs?

I generally taught myself how to take pictures and use cameras. I did take photography class at school for 3 years, 2 out of which I was in the advanced photography program. We have a professional teacher so he criticized our work and I learned a lot from those exercises. I've always just sort of been able to pick up any camera and figure out how to use it. If there's something that I see that I really like but I don't know how to use it, I'll usually ask someone. For example I was visiting a friend in Santa Barbara and he had a camera similar to mine but the pictures he was taking turned out way different and looked really funky. I didn't know how to do that so I just asked him how he did it and he showed me.

4. I know you always have a camera on you so you never miss a great photo op so what's your most favorite photo op of a famous person?

Haha, yeah I ALWAYS have one of my camera's on me... if I'm going out to a party I usually have my smaller one. I think my favorite photo op of a famous person would be either the shoot I did with Tyler from Theory of A Deadman when he modeled you Wong Wear line a few years ago, or the pictures I took of Orianthi, Michael Jackson's guitarist for the "This Is It" tour. She's a new artist, blonde bombshell from Australia. She's very unique from her style and look to her music. My parents threw a party for her this past October so I got to photograph her up close and in my backyard. It was really awesome!

5. What is your favorite photograph that you have taken?

Hmm.... That's a hard one! I have soooo many pictures that I like so I'll describe a few. There's one picture I took in Alaska and it literally looks like someone divided the sky into light in dark right down the middle. There's a cloud over the dark blue water, and the cloud is lighten up and fluorescent white. My favorite collection of pictures is a series of photos I took of graffiti on the train ride from Philadelphia to New York, it's really cool. You can see the difference of graffiti as you go through different areas.

6. Tell me about your favorite camera? What kind is it and do you recommend it to other people who want to learn to take great photos like yours?

My favorite camera that I've used so far is the Canon Rebel XTI. It's not extremely expensive and it takes really great pictures. The Nikon D90 is also really good, they're very similar camera's just from different companies. I would definitely recommend the Canon to anyone who wants to learn photography because it's a sophisticated camera that is simple to learn to use and the photo quality is incredible and clear.

7. Most famous photographers such as Annie Lebowitz and Richard Avedon are known for their special style. How do you describe your special style meaning how would someone know that it is a "Harley Benson" photograph?

I would say that someone would know if it was a photo I've taken by the way the person in a photo looks. And if it's a landscape, I usually raise the contrast levels so you can really see the emphasis on certain things, like a cloud or the water.

8. You are very close to your Dad Howard Benson you guys seem almost like best friends besides having a great father/daughter relationship. Does he encourage your photography passion? Does he allow you take photographs of his bands? If yes, which bands have you photographed and where did you get to do the photoshoot. Have you ever taken photos of your dad¡¯s bands just hanging out in the studio or around your house? How about at concerts? Do you hang out backstage?

Yes my dad and I are very close. He's extremely supportive of me and my photography. He invites me to his studio sometimes to take pictures of him and his bands. I've taken pictures of Hoobastank in the studio at our house and also playing Rock Band. I've taken pictures of Orianthi, as I mentioned earlier, and a few others. At concerts, I almost always take pictures of my dad's bands. Last week was KROQ's Almost Acoustic Xmas and two of my dad's bands performed, Three Days Grace and Dead By Sunrise. I took pictures of both bands from my seat during the concert. When my dad takes me to concerts we usually do go backstage. So both backstage and during the concert I have the opportunity to take pictures. Bands I've been able to see and photograph include All-American Rejects, My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace, Hoobastank, Saosin, Flyleaf, Meg and Dia, Rise Against, AFI, Alice In Chains, Sublime, and many many more.

9. We collaborated on a fashion shoot for my other brand WONGWEAR when we were 14 years old. Our Rock Star model was Tyler Connolly lead singer of one of your dad¡¯s hit bands Theory of a Deadman. I had a lot of fun working with you on that fashion shoot. Can you remember why we decided to make it a black and white shoot? My favorite photograph you took was of Tyler floating on his back in your pool wearing my Wongwear "Ahoy Matey" graphic T-shirt. It was really cool how we convinced him to jump in to the pool with all his clothes on! High Five for us! Describe what it was like to photograph such a famous rock star and what was your favorite moment from that shoot?

Ahhhh yes that was such a fun photoshoot! I can't remember why we decided to make it a black and white shoot, I think when we were photographing inside, the black and white looked better if we wanted the focus to be on your clothing and on Tyler rather than the background. Working with Tyler was a learning experience. I was a lot younger back then so I didn't feel as comfortable telling someone so famous what to do! But it was a very exhilarating experience and so much fun! I think my favorite moment in the shoot was when my little brother and his friend got to push Tyler in to the pool, that was so funny. Also, since it got messed up, we convinced him to jump in with the clothes on AGAIN!

10. How about your favorite photo you took of Tyler?

My favorite photo from that shoot is the one where I finally got a picture of Tyler jumping in mid-air before he landed in the pool. It's a really cool looking action picture.

11. I love your photography style so much that I asked you to collaborate with me on another fashion shoot. This time it was for my brand Queenie4ever. You did a great job working with me, my set and wardrobe stylist and my model Frankie Clarke to get some really cool photographs that have already been featured in several fashion editorials. So thanks for being an amazing photographer! I really enjoyed the tea party fashion shoot. My favorite photo is the close up headshot of me and Frankie wearing our tiaras, you really captured our image o f being sweet, youthful, and ladylike just like the modern version of a proper the Victorian Tea Party look we were going for. I think the photo of Frankie writing her name in the bathroom mirror with my bright pink lipstick is really cool too. What is your favorite photograph from this shoot and why?

My favorite photo from the tea-party shoot is one that I took of Frankie writing her name on the mirror with the bright pink lipstick. It was just such a cool, unique looking picture and it was all your idea too!

12. You are getting ready to go off to college next Fall. What does the future hold for Harley Benson. What are you planning to study in college and what do you plan to do with that degree. Do you plan on following in your parents' footsteps and work in the entertainment industry?

As for college, I am thinking about photojournalism, sports journalism like broadcasting or something, and possibly the music industry. I'm hoping to still be working with photography in my future but I also love history and the news and current events, and I LOVE watching sports. It's very rare for a girl to be as involved in sports as I am. I watch Sunday NFL football and Monday Night Football with my dad every sunday, I can keep up with all the boys at school when it comes to my knowledge regarding sports. I could maybe take pictures for a sports magazine if I get involved in sports. However, I do have an advantage in the music industry and it would be totally fun to be involved in the music industry. So following my parent's footsteps isn't totally out of the question. I mean, I certainly won't be doing the creative, production or musi cal work that my dad is doing, I just would never be able to live up to that legacy. But I am thinking about doing communications and managing and looking at what else I can apply my strengths to in the music business. I can't exactly predict what the future holds, but I'm hoping to be doing something creative and fun, and enjoying the job that I have.

13. You have been very fortunate to have great opportunities to pursue your dream of being a rock n¡¯ roll photographer growing up with famous music industry parents who work with the most successful recording artists in the world. What advice would you give a teen who looks up to you and aspires to be a photographer in the music and entertainment field?

I would tell any aspiring photographer to not be scared. Don't get nervous when you're with some big celebrity because the shoot won't go as well. Also, have a general outline or idea of what you want the scene/shoot to look like, what equipment you'll be needing, and what you need out of the person or people being photographed. You need to be strong and have to be ready for comments of any sort, critical comments or praising comments. Welcome all suggestions, especially from artists, they know what they're talking about.

Each of your photographs are like little works of art and they should be exhibited in an art gallery. I cannot wait to collaborate with you on an upcoming Queenie4ever fashion shoot!
xo Tatiana

Agreed, I can't wait to work with you again. You're clothes are adorable and i love the retro-vintage look from our last shoot!
Hope to see you soon! XO. Harley
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