Larry Towell is a Canadian photographer, poet, and oral historian. Towell grew up in a large family in rural Ontario and studied visual arts at York University in Toronto where his interest in photography first began. Towell volunteered to work in Calcutta, India, in 1976 where he became interested in questions about the distribution of wealth and issues of land and landlessness.
Returning to Canada, Towell taught folk music and wrote poetry and then became a freelance photographer in 1984. His early work included projects on the Contra war in Nicaragua, the civil war in El Salvador, relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala, 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 photo agency, becoming the first Canadian associated with the group and 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, Mennonite migrant workers in Mexico, and a personal project on his family's farm in southern Ontario. He always works with traditional film, eschewing digital options: “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". He has also worked with panoramic cameras, which allow him to shoot the “landscapes of destruction”--looking at human beings and their place in the landscape.
Towell’s bibliography includes books of photographs, poetry, and oral history. He has also recorded several audio CDs of original poetry and songs. Towell lives in rural Lambton County Ontario and sharecrops a 75-acre farm with his wife Ann and their four children.