Portrait of an Artist
Inside Ben Larrabee's photographs
You’ve seen his black and white portraits all around town, but you may not know this longtime Darien resident. Ben Larrabee—the son of a Quaker minister who was born in the farming community of Rogers Hollow, New York—is soft-spoken, thoughtful and preternaturally peaceful. “I think who I am as a photographer is greatly influenced by being a Quaker,” says Ben. “There’s a certain integrity, a way of thinking about people. I’m a channel. There is a feeling of a person’s energy and I photograph that.”
Larrabee’s photographic philosophy also is informed by his meditation practice. So much so that his wife, Trudie, finally began the practice around the same time she joined him as his assistant in 2003. “When we drive to shoot a family we get centered,” says Ben, who is celebrating his fifteenth year as a portrait photographer. “We say ‘let’s go share the love,’ and that’s what we do. Part of the meditation practice is to share the vision and this is how I do it.”
Trudie, who was born and raised in Darien, has always been deeply involved in Ben’s photography as champion and muse. She’s also the pragmatic member of the well-run Larrabee team. Trudi says a shoot lasts two or three hours. Ben sees the length as more of a feeling. “I know when I’ve got it,” he says, though Trudi will tell him when time is up.
Larrabee photographs up to forty families a year. “I loved that he rang the doorbell with camera in hand,” says Darien’s Katie Stein. “We answered and he was shooting straight away. There was no time for inhibition.” Ben shoots in color and converts the images to black and white. “I see more in black and white,” he says. “Sometimes a photo isn’t really working structurally but the color can hold it together.” In addition, this pro doesn’t use Photoshop, and he won’t crop his images. Says Ben, “That’s just part of my discipline.”