Larry Towell

Larry Towell (born 1953) is a Canadian photographer, poet, and oral historian. Towell is known for his photographs of sites of political conflict in the Ukraine, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Standing Rock and Afghanistan, among others. In 1988, Towell became the first Canadian member of Magnum Photos.

Larry Towell
Born1953 (age 6566)
OccupationPhotographer, Photojournalist
Known forPhotojournalism


Towell was born in Chatham-Kent, Ontario[1] and grew up in a large family in rural Ontario, attending local schools. At college, he studied visual arts at York University in Toronto, where his interest in photography first began.[2] In 1976 Towell volunteered to work in Calcutta, India, where he became interested in questions about the distribution of wealth and issues of land and landlessness.[3]

Returning to Canada, Towell taught folk music and wrote poetry during the 1980s.[2]

Towell lives in rural Lambton County Ontario and sharecrops a 75-acre farm with his wife Ann and their four children.[4]

Photography career

He became a freelance photographer in 1984.[5] His early work included projects on the Contra war in Nicaragua,[6][7] the civil war in El Salvador,[8] relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala,[9] and American Vietnam War veterans who worked to rebuild Vietnam. His first magazine essay looked at the ecological damages from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

In 1988, Towell joined the Magnum Photos agency, becoming the first Canadian associated with the group.[10] He has had picture essays published in The New York Times, Life, Rolling Stone, and other magazines. His work has included documentation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,[11][12] Mennonite migrant workers in Mexico,[13] and a personal project on his family's farm in southern Ontario.[14]

He works in both film and digital photography formats. He has said "Black and white is still the poetic form of photography. Digital is for the moment; black and white is an investment of time and love."[2][15] He has also worked with panoramic cameras to documents the impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.[16][2]

From 2008 to 2011, Towell traveled five times to Afghanistan to photograph the social effects of the Afghan civil war.[17][18][19]

Between 2013 and 2015, Towell photographed the above and underground construction work in Toronto's Union Station.[20][21]

In 2015 his photo Isaac's first swim was published by Canada Post as a stamp.[22][23]

In 2016 Towell photographed the Standing Rock protest in Standing Rock, North Dakota.[24][25]

Towell has published books of photographs, poetry, and oral history. He has also recorded several audio CDs of original poetry and songs.


  • Burning Cadillacs (1983)
  • Gifts of War (1988)[26]
  • Somoza's Last Stand (1990)[27]
  • The Prison Poems of Ho Chi Minh (1992)[28]
  • House on Ninth Street (1994)[29]
  • El Salvador (1997)[30]
  • Then Palestine (1999)
  • The Mennonites (2000)[31]
  • No Man's Land (2005)
  • In the Wake of Katrina (2006)
  • The World From My Front Porch (2008)[2][4]
  • The Cardboard House: MSF Peru - Action on Aids. Trolley Books. 2008. ISBN 978-1-904563-71-6.
  • Ruins: Afghanistan (2009)[32]



  • 1991: Silver Medal, Canadian National Awards
  • 1991: Grant of $2500 from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund to make work about the Nahuas in El Salvador[33]
  • 1991/93: Gold Medal, Western Canada Magazine Awards[3]
  • 1993: 1st Prize in category ‘Daily Life Stories’, World Press Photo[34]
  • 1994: World Press Photo of the Year, ‘General News Stories’[35]
  • 1994: World Press Photo, 1st Prize in category ‘Daily Life Stories’, 1st Prize in category[3]
  • 1994: Picture of the Year, Canon Photo Essay Award[36]
  • 1994/1995: Gold Medal, Canadian National Awards[3]
  • 1995: Photographers' work grant, The Ernst Haas Awards, Maine Photographic Workshops[37]
  • 1996: El Mundo Award[3]
  • 1996: Oskar Barnack Award[38]
  • 1997: Golden Light (Best Monograph Award)[3]
  • 1998: Society of Publication Designers, Merit Award, "The New York Times Magazine"[3]
  • 1998: Society of Publication Designers, Magazine of the Year,"The New York Times"
  • 1998: Overseas Press Club, New York, Citation of Excellence
  • 1998: ‘Pictoral’ Prize, Pictures of the Year Foundation, University of Missouri
  • 1998: 1st Prize, Portraiture Essay category, Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Magazine Photography, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism[39][4]
  • 1999: Picture Of the Year (Best Use of Photography in Books)
  • 1999: Roloff Beny Book Award
  • 1999: Grant from the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden[40]
  • 2000: Photo-eye Award, Citation of Excellence
  • 2000: Society for News Design Award, La Nacion
  • 2003: Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation Award[41]
  • 2005: Prix Nadar, for the book No Man's Land[42][43]
  • 2006: Photo District News Photo Annual: One of the year's best projects
  • 2007: Alicia Patterson Award (USA, Finalist)
  • 2007: Achievement In Filmmaking Award, New York International Independent Film and Video Festival
  • 2008: One of the year's best pictures, Photo District News
  • 2009: The World From My Front Porch, one of "50 Best" photo books of the year. Festival Of The Photograph. Charlottesville, VA
  • 2009: The World From My Front Porch, And/or Photography Book Award(Kraszna-Krausz Foundation, UK- shortlisted)
  • 2009: The World From My Front Porch, Top ten best photo books of 2008, Photo-Eye
  • 2011: The Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award, Ontario Arts Foundation[44]



  1. "Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival".
  2. "Larry Towell article". Walrus Magazine.
  3. "Larry Towell Profile". Magnum Photos. Retrieved 2006-12-28.
  4. "Larry Towell". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  5. "Larry Towell • Photographer Profile • Magnum Photos".
  6. "You Will Change: Magnum Photographer Larry Towell Has Advice for Young Photojournalists". 16 July 2015.
  7. "Ontario Arts Foundation / Fondation des Arts l'Ontario".
  8. "EL SALVADOR. 1989".
  9. "Seeing the world through Larry Towell's lens: One-man show is a fundraiser for the SPARK Photo Festival". 22 October 2014.
  10. "Larry Towell: Works 1985-2000".
  11. "Today's Pictures: No Man's Land".
  12. "The Stories Behind Some of the World's Most Iconic Photographs".
  13. "Larry Towell: Sound & Vision – Point of View Magazine".
  14. "Larry Towell biography". Bulger Gallery. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  15. Genova, Alexandra. "These Professional Photographers Are Still Shooting Film". Time.
  16. "Magnum Photos".
  17. "Another Side of Afghanistan by Larry Towell". Time.
  18. "Current Obsession: Larry Towell's haunting photographs from the ruins of Afghanistan". 4 July 2012.
  19. Estrin, James. "Losing the Media War in Afghanistan".
  20. Ritchie, Kevin (25 September 2017). "Five stunning photos of Union Station's ongoing revitalization".
  21. "What to do in Toronto this week: September 5 to 10, 2017". 5 September 2017.
  22. "Bothwell-area photojournalist among seven photographers recognized by Canada Post". 7 April 2015.
  23. "Acclaimed Lambton photographer in running for new honour". 13 September 2016.
  24. "Standing Rock".
  25. "Standing Rock and the Power and Determination of Indigenous America".
  26. Canadian Book Review Annual. Peter Martin Associates. 1988. ISBN 978-0-88924-211-1.
  27. "Larry Towell".
  28. Wascana Review. English Department, University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus. 1991.
  29. James T. Lawrence (2004). Human Rights in the Americas. Nova Publishers. pp. 124–. ISBN 978-1-59033-934-3.
  30. "Magnum Photos".
  31. Brett Abbott; J. Paul Getty Museum (2010). Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography Since the Sixties. Getty Publications. pp. 176–. ISBN 978-1-60606-022-3.
  32. "Picturing Afghanistan". The New Yorker.
  33. "Snapshots". Popular Photography. June 1992. p. 5. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  34. "Larry Towell".
  35. "1994 Larry Towell WY".
  36. "Pictures of the Year". 16 October 2012.
  37. "In Camera". American Photo. July–August 1996. pp. 20–.
  38. "Winner 1979 - 2002 - LOBA". Winner 1979 - 2002 - LOBA.
  40. "Larry Towell (1994-10-14): Kodak Lectures". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  41. "Larry Towell - Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson".
  42. "Canadian photographer wins Prix Nadar - CBC News".
  43. (22 December 2005). "Larry Towell reçoit le prix Nadar". La Croix.
  44. "Ontario Arts Foundation / Fondation des Arts l'Ontario".
  45. Le Mois de la photo à Montreal: septembre 1991. Bibliothèque nationale du Québec. 1991.
  46. Ediciones El País (6 June 1998). "Larry Towell muestra sus imágenes literarias" via
  47. "Larry Towell".
  48. "Windows on the soul Larry Towell: The Mennonites".
  49. "Larry Towell - Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson".
  50. "Larry Towell at Foam Amsterdam -".
  51. "2006: Year in Review".
  52. "Larry Towell: The World From My Front Porch at Eastman House Feb. 16 through June 15". George Eastman House. Archived from the original on 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  53. "Larry Towell and Donovan Wylie: Afghanistan". CONTACT Photography Festival. Archived from the original on 2014-10-11. Retrieved 2014-10-07.
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