Elsa Dorfman used a camera that was larger than herself to create distinct portraits of luminaries and local families alike, famously turning her gaze on families to create rich portraits portraying their relationships. She died at 83 years old on Saturday.

Her husband, Harvey Silverglate, told Boston Public Radio on Tuesday she was a "phenomenon."

They met in 1967, when the young attorney had taken a job at a Boston law firm. As Silverglate recalled, it was a temporary gig, he wasn't sure he wanted to stay in the city. The firm was preparing to test the constitutionality of marijuana prohibition, when a woman walked in to interview one of the attorneys about the case. His boss was busy, and asked Silverglate to talk to her instead. That woman was Dorfman, and for the next four decades, they built their lives here.

Dorfman started her photography career by selling her photos in a pushcart in Harvard Square. Over the years, she photographed the famous — including Faye Dunaway, Allen Ginsburg, Bob Dylan and Julia Child — as well as local families, often capturing them in moments of joy.

"She's always been interested in family dynamics," Silverglate said. "She always liked to emphasize the good dynamics, rather than the bad dynamics, it really disserved her when she had a family that couldn't get along ... she would stomp her foot down and say, 'Would you stop arguing? This is a happy occasion.'"

Her 20x24 camera weighs close to 240 pounds. She came into it years into her photography career. When Polaroid went bankrupt, a friend bought their cameras from bankruptcy court, and bestowed Dorfman the only 20x24 camera in private hands, said Silverglate.

It now sits in storage as he ponders where it belongs.