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Visual Stories ~ Behind The Lens with Vincent Laforet – Book Review

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet may not need an introduction, but his first book does.

In case you’ve never heard of Vince Laforet, he is considered to be one of the most accomplished story telling photographers of his generation. Laforet was commissioned by international publications such as the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Times, Newsweek and Life. He is an expert in aerial photography and was a pioneer in the use of HD-capable DSLRs.

In his book Visual Stories, he takes you through a very personal narrative illustrated with full-color spreads of big events such as Hurricane Katrina, Pakistan’s war zone and the Olympic games.

Visual Stories ~ Behind The Lens with Vincent Laforet - Book Review

Be aware that this is not a book about gear or the technical aspect of photography. Although the exif data of each photo is given and Laforet does talk about lens selection and lighting, it is more about the photographic experience.  He shares his thought process applied behind each frame, the preparation and research involved, the successes and failures. These personal anecdotes and unique stories make this book enjoyable and educational.

The book is divided into 13 chapters and features over 100 photographs.  It’s impossible to have a just one favorite!  Believe me – I tried.  There is something of interest for every one in every chapter.

Some chapters, however, do stand out.  For example, in Chapter 2 ‘A Story in a Single Image’, Laforet relates the challenges of telling one story, or an entire event, with merely one image.  Using many examples from his career as a photojournalist, Laforet explains how he first visualizes the shot and then prepares for it. He also addresses how to decide what to include in or exclude from the frame, and why it is critical to stay focused on what is important, whether you are shooting the Olympics or a war zone.

Vincent Laforet is a specialist in aerial photography. Chapter 7 ‘In The Air’ reenforced my goal of shooting from a helicopter some day.  If you also wish to explore photography from the air, you must read this chapter.  From overall preparation and specific lens selection to weather and safety, he explains how to train your graphic eye how to see and frame a shot from above.  “What you’re trying to do as a photographer from the air is to isolate that geometry in a way that looks beautiful in that two-by-three format.”

In the chapter ‘A Love Affair with New York,’ the author describes his years working the front-page beat for the New York Times – a challenging job. His daily assignment was to find a single image that spoke to the local news of that day. As you read this chapter you can actually feel his excitement as he hunts for just the one right image in the Big Apple.

Chapter 10 ‘The World Through a Tilt-Shift Lens’ is all about just that, seeing the world through a tilt-shift lens, and Vincent Laforet is a master at it! I guarantee that you will look twice at the amazing sample images!

The last chapter ‘Never Make a Mediocre Image’ may contain the most valuable lesson of the entire book. It begins with the thought-provoking line, “The reality for any photographer is you are only as good as your last photograph.” Vincent Laforet goes on to explains how he strives to reach the unattainable through perseverance.  I’ll quote him again here with another great motivational line: “The reality is everyone has great ideas. The number of people who see them through to the end is incredibly small. And a lot of that has to do with perseverance.”

Visual Stories includes a DVD featuring 60 short videos of Laforet discussing the images in the book. This is a huge bonus!  You will see and hear him personally describe his thought process as he created each picture in the book plus some technical aspects related to the image.

Who is this book for? For photographers and non-photographers alike.  It’s an enjoyable read illustrated with beautiful photographs that will make anyone see the world in a different way. And for the photographer, you will be inspired to push your photography a bit further and go beyond the mediocre image.

Visual Stories is published by New Riders and can be purchased through Amazon by clicking here (at the time of publishing this review it is 39% off).

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Valerie Jardin
Valerie Jardin

I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it’s an obsession, almost an addiction. When I’m not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website
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