Legendary photographer Dave Benett at parties with Princess Diana, asking the Queen out of frame and her exciting new exhibition

Anyone who is anyone knows Dave Benett. Omnipresent at fabulous parties, he’s photographed everyone from Paris Hilton on her 21st birthday to Liz Hurley in this Versace safety pin dress on arm of Hugh Grant. Her friendly face has been on the London party scene since the 1980s and has earned the utmost trust from models, A-list actors and the Royal Family during her 40-year career. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, Benett is set to open an exhibition of his works at the JD Malat Gallery in Mayfair, choosing his favorite moments from over a million images in his archive. In his own words, the space will be filled with “photos that are very familiar to people and in the back of their minds wondered who took them.”

Although now a stalwart of the fanciest parties, Benett began his career in the much darker circle of news and sports photography, capturing infamous scenes like the arrest of serial killer Dennis Nielsen and the Harrods bombing in 1983, but in 1985 he saw a change in what the media was reporting. “I was watching the world change, fame was becoming the real news,” says Benett, “I remember seeing the front page of a newspaper saying ‘Dierdre Arrested’ and I was like ‘Oh my God, that poor wife was arrested and now it’s on the cover page!” It turned out to be a coronation street scenario. I think it was the writing on the wall.

Quickly becoming the standard for capturing the events of London’s hedonistic energy in the late 80s and early 90s, Benett became close to the most high-profile partygoers. Fashion royalty like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, pop royalty like Kylie Minogue and Madonna, and, of course, actual royalty.

Diana, Princess of Wales was the most famous woman in the country when Benett won her trust and friendship. “I’ve had a great relationship with the royals because I don’t chase them, they go to parties I go to, which will always be a great position.” Benett explains: “Even Diana, she was coming to a party and I was there because the host had invited me, so there was always this great relationship and this sincerity, and she said it was good to shoot” , says Benett. “It was the same with the Duchess of York, Fergie was amazing!” She is an old friend and now we take care of Eugénie and Béatrice. It was great to watch them grow.

Benett’s charming personality proved to be incredibly helpful when it came to filming in difficult and difficult circumstances. He recalls one specific moment when he had to ask Her Majesty to step out of frame to take a picture: ‘It was the Queen Mother’s 99th birthday at the Theater Royal Haymarket and the owner had asked me to cover it . Because she was the Queen Mom, everyone wanted to come and meet her. Patricia Routledge and the entire cast of keep up appearances walked into the royal retreat halls and there were suddenly 30 people inside. Obviously, I was focusing on the Queen Mother and had to fight my way through everyone. Her Majesty was standing there, and there was no one to say “Would your Majesty mind you?”, so I did. She gave me a little glance, laughed and walked away so I could pass,” Benett explains.

Skilled at the most exclusive events, Benett knows how to throw a great party, “It’s a mix of great people, great DJs, and a little drink!” he admits. vanity loungeOscar parties in LA, the amfAR gala in Cannes and BRIT afterparties are some of his favorites, but knowing when to lower the camera is imperative to staying friendly with celebrities and socialites. “I have my own barometer, but it’s pretty obvious when it starts to get too wild, and it’s not necessary.” The more socially distanced parties we do, the more that becomes the case,” says Benett, “Back when we were having the first Little Black Book parties, it was all about trying to get a cheeky image when of our days, for me, I wouldn’t do that.

From Boris Johnson to Boris Becker, Prince to Prince Harry, you name it, Dave has shot them down – and many consider him a close friend. To those who are not on the capital’s VIP guest list; it’s up to you to see the most wonderful moments in London’s party history. To those who are; you might end up on the walls.

‘Great shot, kid’ is open from 17 February to 8 March at JD Malat Gallery, Mayfair

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