Passion for photography

By WARREN CORNWALL

Herald Writer

Bob Benson, who for more than four decades immortalized the personal, industrial and pastoral life of Snohomish County in photographs, died Saturday. He was 73.

Known for his infectious humor, skilled eye and never-ending appetite for photographs, Benson established a reputation great enough that brides and grooms would change schedules or, on more than one occasion, hire a helicopter to whisk him from a Hat Island vacation to ensure he was behind the lens at a wedding.

"He always had a camera with him," said his son Kirk Benson, 43.

Robert D. Benson was born in Williston, N.D., in 1927. He first discovered photography when he served in the Army in Italy, shortly after the end of World War II, said his wife of 48 years, Bernice Benson.

Benson began leaving his photographic mark on Snohomish County in 1958, when he opened Benson’s Camera Supply on Hewitt Avenue in Everett, she said. That business eventually grew into a camera supply store and studio, with a branch in Marysville.

Peering through his beloved Hasselblad cameras, or others, Benson showed a huge breadth of interest.

The Everett man hung from planes to capture panoramas of granite peaks.

He charmed kids to stand still for portraits with promises that they could have his "lucky" coin – one of a collection of foreign coins he carried for such occasions.

He photographed the inner workings of factories for some of the areas biggest companies.

He snapped photos of the family dog in a Santa hat for a Christmas card the dog sent each year to animals in other families.

"Everything me and Kirk have done is recorded," said his other son, Kris Benson, 36.

And Bob Benson never tired of photographing weddings, thousands of them in all, family members said. He referred proudly to "his brides," Bernice Benson said, and continued to photograph the events regularly after selling his studio in 1996.

"He’s just a very friendly guy. He had a knack to put you at ease," said Sam Bryce, a professional photographer in Lake Stevens who trained under Benson at Everett Community College (then Everett Junior College), and later photographed weddings for Benson.

Benson’s work earned him the rare rank of master from the Professional Photographers of America. Western Washington has as few as a dozen active masters, Bryce said.

When not behind the camera, Benson could often be found on his 33-foot motorboat, the Studio B. He was a member of the Everett and Hat Island yacht clubs, and his sons recalled spending vacations motoring through the San Juan Islands. In recent years, he had confined many of his trips to Hat Island, Bernice Benson said.

He died there, after accidentally falling backward off a dock, hitting his head against a boat, and falling into the water, she said. Initial efforts to pull him from the water failed, she said. When he was finally brought to the surface, he could not be revived.

His passion for boating and photography, however, did not keep him from being a devoted father, said Kirk Benson. Bob Benson’s father died when he was 2, and that helped drive his commitment to his family, he said.

Bob Benson is survived by his wife, two sons, and two grandchildren.

A public memorial for Benson will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, west of Forest Park, on Mukilteo Boulevard in Everett.

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to

cornwall@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead in motorcycle crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

Authorities didn’t have any immediate details about the crash that fully blocked the highway Friday afternoon.

Photographs in the 2024 Annual Black and White Photography Contest on display at the Schack Art Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Black and white photos aren’t old school for teens at Schack Art Center

The photography contest, in its 29th year, had over 170 entries. See it at the Schack in Everett through May 5.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mom charged with first-degree murder in death of son, 4

On Friday, prosecutors charged Janet Garcia, 27, three weeks after Ariel Garcia went missing from an Everett apartment.

Dr. Mary Templeton (Photo provided by Lake Stevens School District)
Lake Stevens selects new school superintendent

Mary Templeton, who holds the top job in the Washougal School District, will take over from Ken Collins this summer.

A closed road at the Heather Lake Trail parking lot along the Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County, Washington on Wednesday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mountain Loop Highway partially reopens Friday

Closed since December, part of the route to some of the region’s best hikes remains closed due to construction.

Emma Dilemma, a makeup artist and bikini barista for the last year and a half, serves a drink to a customer while dressed as Lily Munster Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at XO Espresso on 41st Street in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
After long legal battle, Everett rewrites bikini barista dress code

Employees now have to follow the same lewd conduct laws as everyone else, after a judge ruled the old dress code unconstitutional.

The oldest known meteor shower, Lyrid, will be falling across the skies in mid- to late April 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Clouds to dampen Lyrid meteor shower views in Western Washington

Forecasters expect a storm will obstruct peak viewing Sunday. Locals’ best chance at viewing could be on the coast. Or east.

AquaSox's Travis Kuhn and Emerald's Ryan Jensen an hour after the game between the two teams on Sunday continue standing in salute to the National Anthem at Funko Field on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New AquaSox stadium downtown could cost up to $120M

That’s $40 million more than an earlier estimate. Alternatively, remodeling Funko Field could cost nearly $70 million.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.