Vincent Laforet : Air

Photographer and filmmaker Vincent Laforet recently found himself in a position familiar to many professional photographers. After shooting New York City at night from a helicopter 7,500 feet in the air to illustrate the power connection and intersecting paths through the city’s grid system for a Men’s Health magazine article about coincidence, Laforet wanted to extend the project to other cities, but the magazine moved on to the next story, and Laforet no longer had the funding support.

Instead of shelving the project until another corporate funding deal came through, he took the initiative to add the “AIR” project to the multimedia story platform and watched as social media spread the project across the Internet. A viral success, Laforet found himself with the opportunity to harness the public’s interest and has turned the first individual assignment into a crowd-funded series through presales of a series book, postcards and prints.

Laforet has now added Las Vegas and San Francisco to his “AIR” series, with more cities to follow. I recently caught up with Laforet who told me about the project’s inspiration and execution, and his plans moving forward.

DPP: What inspired the concept for the “AIR” series?

Vincent Laforet:
It was kind of just one of the most amazing series of coincidences. I had been wanting to shoot these types of images. Since I was maybe 13 or 14 years old, looking out of planes out of LaGuardia or LAX, you can always see these lines of streets and all the activity below. It’s very beautiful for anyone watching out of the window. And, obviously, these cameras came out in the past year or so that shoot in very high ISO and allow you to actually photograph this. I’ve really been waiting on the sidelines for capture technology to catch up to this desire of mine to shoot through the night.

DPP: You shoot a lot of aerials…

Laforet: I used to. That was back when I was an editorial photographer, which is almost, at this point, five years ago. I used to shoot a lot of aerials—National Geographic, for almost every magazine. But the industry has undergone a lot of change and can’t afford to do that anymore. On average, in the past three or four years, I’ve done one aerial assignment a year, maybe two. Now, I shot this for Men’s Health and published it there, and nothing really happened with it. Then I put it on this new platform called Storehouse, and it went absolutely crazy. Now I’ve been getting a tremendous amount of still photography jobs and offers as a result of this. I was ready to give up on photography because I make most of my living as a commercial director. I’m working on my first film next year, which is now being pushed because of this. So it’s one of those weird things where life has a way of telling you what you should be doing.

2 thoughts on “Vincent Laforet : Air

    1. It’s a good point, there are a few reasons we’re interested in this. One, as you noticed, the images are pretty. Two, it’s not as unaffordable as you think. In NYC you can rent a helicopter for a half hour to hour for about $250. (Of course the doors are on.) That’s expensive, but not much considering the images you can get.

      But recently I found out about a photographer that made a barter deal with a local (new) helicopter tour company. He gave them free images from his trips with them to use on the website and in print ad in exchange for air time to photograph. He ended up building a portfolio around this, and now is hired regularly to shoot for clients from the air.

      I know Vincent, and he bankrolled this up front himself, and now he’s shooting all over the world. He just got invited to Moscow to shoot inside the helicopters they use for fighting fires and his footage is on Instagram.

      So this started as a out-of-pocket funded expense and turned into a major part of his career.

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