“Once I committed myself, no matter how implausible it seemed at times, I intuitively knew that nature would support it”
The son of a Quaker minister, Ben Larrabee learned a lot growing up about honesty, humility and the importance of having an open mind. These values resonate with him today as a practicing Quaker and meditator who uses the lens of a camera to look in depth at the many faces of the human spirit.
Ben has always sought to explore the world around him through art. His aptitude eventually led him to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1962 where he discovered his true passion through his mentor, world-renowned photographer Harry Callahan. Ben was so inspired by Callahan that he changed his major from graphic design and spent a fifth year at RISD to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography.
Read the latest interview with Ben, featured in Wall Street International Magazine.
Upon graduating, Ben had to come to terms with how to support himself. The only options he saw were teaching or doing commercial photography, neither of which appealed to him. Ben pursued graphic design instead.
He established a design firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, won many notable awards and earned national and international recognition for his work. It was during this time in his life that Ben began the practice of transcendental meditation. To enrich his experience and understanding of TM, he attended advanced courses, one of which was a four month long course in Switzerland, where he had a vision to build on his career in graphic design.
In 1978 he earned a Master’s degree of Fine Arts in graphic design from Yale University. There, Ben had a chance to learn first hand from such masters and visionaries as Paul Rand, Bradbury Thompson and Armin Hoffman, among others. After graduate school, Ben went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to serve as the principal corporate designer for Westinghouse Corporation. Later he established his own identity-consulting firm in New York City and handled major assignments for such Fortune 100 companies as International Paper and Hoechst-Celanese.
All this time, photography waited. Finally, in 1993, after 25 years as a graphic designer and several profound spiritual events, Ben sensed the time had come for him to embrace photography. He refocused his energies on a spiritual practice including chanting and meditation, which helped him find the way to pursue his life-long passion with renewed confidence and purpose.
“In a way, the long search that led me to my own spirit has made it possible for me to recognize it in others; photography is the path that has led me to both.”
For the past 23 years, Ben Larrabee has been exploring and recording the authentic details of peoples’ lives in intimate and revealing photographic portraits. They not only reflect the inner spirit of his subjects, but also the uncommon aesthetic aims of an artist.
Ben has also dedicated himself to contributing to his community. Each year, he donates to a variety of charities his session fee through silent and live auctions. He also makes time to work with a small number of private students. “Harry Callahan did so much to inspire me,” Ben says. “It’s important to me to pass the gift along.”
“I know that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing,” Ben says. “In a way, the long search that led me to my own spirit has made it possible for me to recognize it in others; photography is the path that has led me to both.”
“I believe that what Joseph Campbell has said is true: ‘If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living . . .’ ”