Visual Stories: Behind the Lens With Vincent Laforet
By: Vincent Laforet with Ibarionex Perello
New Riders/Voices That Matter
Reviewed by Ellis Vener
Until his recent migration to being a full-time director, Vincent Laforet primarily worked as a photojournalist—most prominently as a staff photographer for The New York Times—and later as a freelancer. It was a career Laforet was born to: his father was a shooter for the Gamma Photo Agency in Paris and gave Vincent his first camera in 1980 when he was just 15. "Visual Stories" distills the lessons he learned in his 18-year career as a still photographer, accompanied by a collection of what he considers his most successful and favorite images. If you know any young person who aspires to be a storytelling photographer or someone who aspires to be a better one, I highly recommend this book. Not only are the photos terrific and reproduced well, but Laforet — interviewed by Ibarionex Perello — engagingly tells the backstory behind each image.
However, the book package has some editorial problems. For my taste, there are too many images reproduced twice. At only 214 pages this isn't a big book, and I know Laforet has more equally terrific images in his portfolio. In one case, a photo taken from a helicopter directly over the Empire State building at sunset (also the cover image) is completely mis-captioned as "Aerial photograph of Ground Zero at sunset almost five years after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks." Ground Zero is in the photo – but so is the entire New York City metropolitan sprawl. What really makes this odd is half of the opposite page discusses the making of this image at length and why Laforet thinks it "speaks to a lot of who I am as a photographer."
In the included DVD, Laforet discusses each image—what he likes about it and the technique that went into it—at more length than he can in the limited space of the printed page. As each video starts you see just the center of the photo with a slow zoom out to reveal the entire image. This trasitions to a key, fill and rim lit Laforet, wearing a black t-shirt and black hoodie against a black background, speaking directly to the camera. It would help if the title of the video files included the page number in the book.
Despite these flaws I really do highly recommend “Visual Stories.” The photos are great and he tells the tales well. I just wish the publishers had paid more attention to the editing and production details.