DPP Home Profiles Vincent Laforet - Improbable Reality

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Vincent Laforet - Improbable Reality

Vincent Laforet's photographs are rarified, captured milliseconds caught in an artist's light

During spring break of his freshman year, after having been rejected by seven internship programs, Reuters gave Laforet a desk job as an editor.

“Actually, my job description was to answer the phone and make sure pictures were arriving into our system from across the U.S.,” he says. “I finally convinced my editor to let me shoot after my shift was finished. I began covering baseball games, then Capitol Hill, then the White House. The wire service taught me not only to know where the photograph is, when the photograph happens, but why some pictures got used and others did not.”

Later the following summer, an internship at the Los Angeles Times would further widen Laforet's photography assignments, taking him from the California wildfires to local features and portraits to the Huntington Park riots. But it was in Chicago that the job opportunity came up for Laforet to work for Allsport (which is now Getty Images). The job had a unique requirement that was perfect for him at the time—300 travel days a year.

It was at Allsport that Laforet had what he calls a creative epiphany that would change his life. Says Laforet, “Al Bello is one of the greatest sports photographers in the world. When I saw his portfolio, I realized that there was photojournalism and then there could be more. Al encouraged me, but I saw, clear as day, that although there were some good moments in my work, I had to spend more time on the aesthetic.”

Laforet would learn to find the uncommon in the ordinary, the familiar in the extraordinary, and express them both artistically. “To this day, I begin my photography with light, aesthetic and color.”

Says Laforet, “It was at a Super Bowl that I met the Sports Editor from The New York Times. A little over a year later, I learned that there was a job opening for an editor on the Website of NYTimes.com. I told the editor my passion was photography. His advice was golden. He told me to take the job as an editor and get my foot in the door.”

Six months later, a staff position became available and Laforet became one of the youngest photographers ever hired by the newspaper.

“My first big New York Times assignment was to cover the election recount in Florida. To this day, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to cover because it was such a non-visual story. One day, I was standing in front of a window during a break in the hearings. There must have been 50 video cameras lined up side by side waiting for the lawyers to make a statement, shooting different things. But I saw my picture. All those lawyers were just standing in front of a large window with a view of a deep blue sky with scattered clouds that made the scene reminiscent of a Salvador Dali painting. I asked the videographers if I could just jump in front of them for a few seconds to catch one shot from a different perspective. It was a still image that somehow spoke to America's fate being in the hands of lawyers with briefcases. I was finding that the more open-ended the images, the more the reader is able to get lost in them and think about what the event means to them.”

Laforet was in Paris on September 11, 2001. In the chaos that followed the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, there were no planes flying to the United States so he couldn't return to New York, but he could get to Pakistan.


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