Biographical / Historical
Born Constance Stuart in England in 1914, she grew up in Pretoria, South Africa. Larrabee established her reputation in the 1930s by photographing the Bushmen and Transkei peoples, as well as taking portraits of the white South African elite. Perhaps her most dramatic role, however, came during her time as a war photographer. Larrabee was “embedded” with the South African Sixth Armored Division as they participated in the liberation of Europe during World War II. Traveling alongside the troops, she sometimes found herself under fire. Her photographs from South Africa and the war have been exhibited at galleries and museums like the National Museum of African Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art. After the war, she married Colonel Sterling Larrabee and settled in Chestertown, Maryland.
Despite Larrabee’s abilities with the camera, she is not that well known. Whether this is due to the fact that Larrabee was a woman, because she did not seek attention, or because she did not participate in many exhibits, is open to interpretation. However, Larrabee’s images have long been appreciated by those fortunate enough to see them. While Larrabee is most well known for her photographs of South African peoples, white South African elite, and soldiers and civilians during World War II, she also did some excellent work at Steuben Glass in the late 1950s.
After moving to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Larrabee came into contact with Arthur Houghton Jr., longtime president of Steuben Glass. The two struck up an acquaintanceship and Houghton eventually convinced Larrabee to come to Corning in 1957 to photograph workers at Steuben Glass. The images she took in the factory eventually became the foundation for an exhibition known variously as “A Photo-Documentary Exhibit of Steuben Glass” and “The Silent Harmony of Hand and Mind” (1959).
Larrabee’s photographs have been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, and the Corcoran Gallery.