HARRY BENSON, renown for his photojournalism and portraiture across five decades, will publish a retrospective book, Harry Benson: 50 Years in Pictures (Abrams), this fall:

Photography is about a lot of things: news and art and history. But when it comes to our personal lives, it is the individual photograph - - not photography itself - - that matters. A picture of a loved one, a best friend, a vacation, a dog. A glimpse of one’s own era or of an era that used to be.

When you think of them in this context, photos are among the most treasured commodities in our lives. They are a currency for preserving and sharing and passing on our visual memories of those who have passed from this life. They are nuggets of memory itself.

I have photographed so many people who are no longer here, many of whom have died of AIDS-related causes. So many acquaintances. So many celebrities. So many friends. And when all is said and done, I still remember them through my photographs of them. Pictures are my most poignant connection to them.

On several occasions, I’ve photographed Elizabeth Taylor, one of the great champions of the cause of fighting AIDS. And we both remarked how much we missed Halston, the designer, our mutual friend, who passed away in 1990. One time I remarked to her that one of my secret regrets was that I once saw him sitting with his family eating dinner at the Isle of Capri in New York. And I didn’t go over and say hello. Well, he died shortly after that. And Elizabeth said the same thing. She’d regretted not having picked up the phone, not having been able just to say goodbye.

But a photograph, in its way, provides a small measure of consolation. Now, I can turn to a picture of Halston and see him looking thin but wonderful in his tuxedo, and I can recall his presence, his sense of style, his generosity.