“Follow your bliss . . .” -- Joseph Campbell
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.
Since he was a boy, 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 – photography – through his mentor, world-renowned photographer Harry Callahan. Ben was so inspired by Callahan and his work that he changed his major from graphic design and spent a fifth year at RISD to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography.
But after college, 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.
In 1978 he resumed his studies and 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 after experiencing several profound spiritual events, Ben sensed the time had come for him to embrace his true calling. Consequently 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.
“Once I committed myself, no matter how implausible it seemed at times, I intuitively knew that nature would support it,” he says. “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 . . .’”
For the past 12 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 a dedicated 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.”
Ben’s artistic goal is to capture those memorable yet fleeting glimpses of life that we take for granted. His rare ability to record the Moments of Grace in people’s lives is guided by his desire to learn something new, and to reveal more about his subjects and himself in the process. By creating portraits that reveal spirit, Ben has found a way to share his gifts with others. “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.”