She grew up on the Upper West Side and graduated from City-as-School, an alternative public high school at which students design their own curriculums based on experiential learning, mostly through internships. (Jean-Michel Basquiat was an alumnus, as is Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys.) Ms. Raphan interned with Albert Watson, the fashion photographer.
Her mother described Ms. Raphan as an “irregular verb.”
“She saw things through a different lens,” she said. “Benita could take something ordinary and find beauty in it. She was the real deal. No artifice about her. The heart was right out there.”
Ms. Raphan earned an undergraduate degree in media arts from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan — where she also taught for the last 15 years — and an M.F.A. from the Royal College of Art in London. She spent 10 years in Paris, working as a graphic designer for fashion companies like Marithé & François Girbaud, before returning to New York in the mid-1990s.
In addition to her mother, she is survived by her sister, Melissa Raphan.
“While the rest of us were stealing from our instructors and other design luminaries,” said Gail Anderson, a creative director and former classmate of Ms. Raphan’s, “Benita was on her own journey, working with delicate typography and haunting images, creating collages and photo-illustrations that were uniquely Benita.”
Ms. Raphan was, in her own estimation, more of a collage artist than a filmmaker. “Her films are really collages of ideas,” said Kane Platt, a film editor who worked on many of her projects. “Working with her you had a lot of freedom, and if you had ideas that were weird and wacky, she was like, ‘Go, go, go!’”