Constance Stuart Larrabee, a photographer who recorded the vanishing tribes of southern Africa, the World War II battlefields of Europe and her life on Maryland’s tranquil Eastern Shore, died on July 27 at her home in Chestertown, Md. She was 85.
Known as Constance Stuart earlier in her career, Mrs. Larrabee in 1997 donated her African images to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, her World War II pictures to the Corcoran Gallery and her views of the Eastern Shore to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
She photographed South African soldiers fighting their way up the Italian boot, as well as the liberation of Paris, with Gen. Charles de Gaulle, in profile, addressing a crowd. Finally, the show ended on a genteel note in Maryland, where she bred Norwich and Norfolk terriers on a farm and depicted the rivers and creeks, wildlife and people of her surroundings.
Two of her South African photographs were included in Edward Steichen’s famous international exhibition and collection of the mid-1950’s, ”The Family of Man.” The Museum of Modern Art billed it as ”the greatest photographic exhibition of all time,” and she shared the credits with the likes of Margaret Bourke-White, Frank Capra and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Born in England, Mrs. Larrabee grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, and studied photography in London and Munich. In 1936 she started a portrait studio in Pretoria to capture the white South African elite along with visitors like Noel Coward and members of the British royal family.
Apart from her commercial work, she began to chronicle the vanishing ethnic cultures of Bushmen, Transkei peoples and others in the region. Her exhibitions drew national attention and led to her appointment as a war photographer.