Book Review: Visual Stories - Behind the Lens with Vincent Laforet

New Riders Press, 2011, $54.99 (264p), ISBN-10: 0321793927, ISBN-13: 978-0321793928

As Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet transitions away from still photography and more towards film and video, he looks back at his photojournalistic and commercial career and shares some of his hard-won wisdom and technique in this engaging book.

Part of the ever-growing 'here’s-what-I-was-thinking-when-I-took-this-shot' genre of photo technique books, Behind the Lens stands apart for two primary reasons: Mr. Laforet’s shots are extraordinary and his thoughts when he took them are revelatory. Many enthusiasts engage in the idle fantasy that with right access and the right gear, they could get the same shots as the high-end pros, but Laforet’s obsessive quest for the right angle, the perfectly timed composition, and the illuminating expression (backed by dozens of tricks of the trade) illustrate that intent, vision, and skill are what truly make a great photographer.

In style, Laforet’s imagery veers more toward grand symphonic than string quartet - the brassiness, exuberance, scale, and guts of his imagery demonstrate his interest in painting on a broad photographic canvas. In fact, much of his best work is aerial and even with a potentially vast vista, Laforet shows how he can organize elements into a telling and graphic moment (e.g. a Coney Island beach, Central Park ice skaters, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). 

In chatty and anecdote-driven prose, Laforet covers many areas of basic technique. His writing is strongest when covering sports and lens choices, as when he articulates the importance of finding the ideal placement for the frame and then waiting for the 'apex of emotion' or a 'sustenation moment' during a sporting event. In explaining lens choice, he cautions against choosing a lens for how much or little you want in the frame. Rather, he urges the reader to choose lenses primarily for the way they render depth perception and to what extent they widen or compress the scene.

Though this easy-to-read book can occasionally be repetitive, turning the page to find another striking frame makes the repeat anecdotes, examples, and shots easy to forgive. Perhaps Laforet will ultimately take his cue from Stanley Kubrick and smoothly transition from an accomplished photographer to accomplished filmmaker. One thing his book makes plain: Laforet is already a masterful visual storyteller. 

We posted a short interview with Vincent Laforet last year at the Photo Plus Expo trade show in New York which you can see here. Visual Stories is available on Amazon.com.


Adam Koplan is head of the Performance Department at the Dreamyard Project which brings arts programs to NYC schools. He is also Artistic Director of The Flying Carpet Theatre Co. Follow him on Twitter @FlyingCarpetNYC  

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 19
garryleb
By garryleb (Feb 6, 2013)

I was waiting for this book to get release since i am very much interested in these kind of books. Thanks a lot for sharing the information though.
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Comment edited 2 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
junglepix
By junglepix (Apr 23, 2012)

Kinda sound like the kind of photography book I’d like to read. Thanks for the review.

0 upvotes
ghazala786
By ghazala786 (Mar 5, 2012)

hmm so os

0 upvotes
Just a Photographer
By Just a Photographer (Mar 1, 2012)

Seems like a useless book.

Ordinary men don't have access nor the money to pay for a helicopter for a whole day, and they can't ask for roads to be closed off because you want to make a movie shot.

Really those that think that this book is a guide to become a better moviemaker are better of buying something else.

Just an opinion though.

0 upvotes
bonnie2012
By bonnie2012 (Feb 28, 2012)

like it

0 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Feb 27, 2012)

For every one kid who is elevated even momentarily to Laforet’s heights of photonic talents ( yeah, sorry ;) there are a few thousand kids who think …Hell, I am not talented. Kids, let me let you, inonagreatsecret. True genius? Less than ten a century and they are mostly mathematicians. Everyone else is faking it. So don't worry if you cannot stick your head out of a chopper with a rig pointing downwards, or pay Photoshop black-belts to do their thing for you. Pick your camera and go for it.

7 upvotes
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Feb 27, 2012)

Never mind this arty-farty "art" nonsense - and it does seem that access to a helicopter and a pilot are the key to Laforet's art - let's hear about Nokia's new 41-megapixel smartphone. That's extraordinary, if it's really true.

5 upvotes
angeloscy
By angeloscy (Feb 27, 2012)

It is true and let's hope it will get the a chance here!

0 upvotes
tirmite
By tirmite (Feb 27, 2012)

Really? And this is a serious photography blog, right? So even if Nokia does manage to cram 41 megapixels onto a tiny chip, do you really think it's going to rock the photography world? Thought we were beyond the numbers game. I'm sure every new owner of that phone...err...camera will instantly become a professional, internationally recognized photographer. :-P

1 upvote
angeloscy
By angeloscy (Feb 27, 2012)

Such a revolution in term of mobile cameras deserves something here. At least Iphone did. Moreover there is a special forum section for mobile cameras, that means some readers here do care.
Anyway I end this off topic discussion here as there is already a topic in the forum.

P.S: Never say never, there are photographers who shot using camera phones.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0321684788/

1 upvote
MediaDigitalVideo
By MediaDigitalVideo (Feb 27, 2012)

Finaly I will meet him in Amsterdam.

0 upvotes
mediokre
By mediokre (Feb 27, 2012)

Amazon is offering this book in a Kindle edition. 800 black and white pixels. What a brilliant idea!

0 upvotes
NeilCam
By NeilCam (Feb 27, 2012)

Ummm, only if you've got an e-ink reader. For the rest of us on tablets or readers capable of colour, then you'll find the Kindle edition will be in full colour. Brilliant!

1 upvote
jorepuusa
By jorepuusa (Feb 27, 2012)

Nobody is writing about orbs, not even HunterThompson!
Now how can DPREVIEW commentsmob create religious debate about this topic of Visual Stories. We will see ;-) I´m sure they can.

0 upvotes
mahmud2008
By mahmud2008 (Feb 27, 2012)

I am often confused from the market.
I'm always looking for the best camera and/or for the best lens.
Is not the right way.
Better idea would be signify my intent with the HW I have.
Less technique and more intellect.
www.facebook.com

1 upvote
mahmud2008
By mahmud2008 (Feb 27, 2012)

This is a good site for us.

0 upvotes
cesaregal
By cesaregal (Feb 27, 2012)

"Intent, vision and skill make a great photographer".

I am often confused from the market.
I'm always looking for the best camera and/or for the best lens.
Is not the right way.
Better idea would be signify my intent with the HW I have.
Less technique and more intellect.

4 upvotes
Erik van den Elsen
By Erik van den Elsen (Feb 27, 2012)

...and more time...

0 upvotes
gustavorr
By gustavorr (Feb 28, 2012)

Similar :)
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=350069625033857&set=a.110258852348270.5771.100000924673873&type=1

0 upvotes
Total comments: 19