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“For me the act of taking a picture, and the making of pictures … it’s about telling stories, sharing stories.”
Vincent Laforet

Photographer /Filmmaker Vincent Laforet may have been born in Switzerland, cut his photography chops in New York, and currently live in L.A., but where do you think he went to college to lay the foundation for the work he’s doing now? That’s right, he headed to the good ole’ Midwest and got his degree in print  journalism  from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern in Chicago.

So before you think he just picked up a camera and became famous, think again. He started out like everyone else knocking on doors. “As a freshman in college, I was rejected by about eight or nine internships in a row.” But he finally landed an internship at Reuters the summer after his freshman year. He says that opened the door for an internship the next year at the L.A. Times, and the next year with the Miami Herald.

During the school year, back in Chicago he had an opportunity to shoot for AP where he was encouraged to get images “that not everyone else had.” He took full advantage of those opportunities,”I was skipping out on finals and midterms to photograph Jordan’s final game with the Chicago Bulls.”  Seeing how he’s a leader in the HD-DSLR revolution Laforet appears to me a little like Neo in The Matrix. The chosen one.  (Is it just coincidence that The Matrix writers & directors, the Wachowski brothers, are from Chicago?)

So Laforet  has been on the fast track, but he’s also paid he’s dues.  He learned to take pictures from his professional photographer father, entered his first photography contest when he was 15 and 12 years later shared in the 2002 Pulitzer Prize (Feature Photography) as part of The New York Times staff.

“The one reason I did succeed early on in my career was that I was so technical.  I was 16, 17 years old with very little experience and knowledge, but all of my images were tack-sharp and perfectly exposed.   I used to give my father my 30 best slides for the month and he would sort them out, 10 on one side and 20 on the other, pull his scissors out of his drawer and hammer through the 20.  ‘They’re poorly exposed; they’re out of focus.  I don’t want to see them.’  He’s a very, very nice person.  He was just adamant about certain things, so I came from that background.”
Vincent Laforet

You can follow his blog as he helps build the bridge between photographers and filmmakers at blog.vicentlaforet.com. Just a few days ago he wrote about a film contest sponsored by Canon & Viemo called The Story Beyond the Still and I challenge any screenwriter who has never made a short film to submit a video. (February 11, 2010 deadline.) You can read Laforet commets about the contest on his post Canon & Vimeo Contest is Open. I look foward to seeing more of his work in the future.

But keep in mind as you look at equipment, that as the saying goes—‘it’s the violinist, not the violin.” Laforet is one more example of The 10,000 Hour Rule.

(As another Chicago sidenote, check out the webisodes called FilmFellas that Steve Weiss and the gang at Zacuto are producing. Good stuff that I’ll write about later.)

Scott W. Smith

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