Vincent Laforet (born 1975, Switzerland) is a French American director and photographer. Laforet shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography with four other photographers (Stephen Crowley, Chang Lee, James Hill, Ruth Fremson) as a member of The New York Times staff's coverage of the post 9/11 events overseas that captured "the pain and the perseverance of people enduring protracted conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan." In 2006, Laforet became the Times' first national contract photographer.

New York As Never Seen Before


Vincent Laforet has spent the past 15 year taking daring helicopter rides to capture some of the most incredible aerial images from around the world.

But his latest photo mission — to photograph New York City at night from above — was "the scariest of my life," he tells Business Insider. In order to take the photographs, Laforet had to dangle from the door of a helicopter hovering at a dizzying 7,500 feet above the ground (an uncommonly high altitude for a helicopter), secured only by a harness, and shoot straight down.

Laforet's photo series, titled “Gotham 7.5K,” reveals an incredible new vantage point the busiest city in the United States.

Laforet has always dreamed of capturing these photographs of New York, he says: "I've been wanting to take these pictures since I was a teenager, peering out of a window of a jetliner," Laforet says.

Lower Manhattan, One WTC (Freedom Tower), and 9/11 Memorial

"Every time I landed at LaGuardia or JFK, I would see incredible lights in the city and the streets of New York and I've always wanted to try to find a way to make these photographs," tells Laforet.

But it just wasn't possible, until now.

The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge (above).

I think it’s a pretty unique series of photographs because technology is allowing us to make these images for the first time. Just a few years ago, you would never see this level of color and detail. The fact that you can get a pretty clean image at that high of a sensitivity is pretty remarkable.
— Vincent Laforet

Midtown Manhattan

Laforet used cameras such as the Canon 1DX and the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50MP to take some of the clearest photographs ever taken above New York.

Midtown Manhattan and Central Park

To take the photographs, Laforet had to fly a unique altitude as well. 

"We are actually flying above all of airline traffic landing at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports," Laforet wrote on Storehouse.

We are actually flying above all of airline traffic landing at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports,
— Laforet

If they had gone a few thousand more feet up, they would have needed oxygen masks.

The Empire State Building

When you’re that high, you think to yourself, ‘if anything were to happen, it would be a very long fall. It’s definitely one of the scariest flights I’ve ever done, especially when you’re hanging out of the helicopter and shooting straight down.
— Vincent Laforet

Lower Manhattan and New York Bay. The Freedom Tower at the tip of Manhattan island, Hudson River (right-hand) and East River (left)

Helicopters shake pretty significantly while in the air and, even with fancy cameras and special tools, getting such clear images is a remarkable feat.

Between the way I hold the camera, the gyroscope, and a little bit of luck, you’re hoping to get one out of every five images sharp.
— Laforet

Midtown Manhattan

I was recently on assignment for Men’s Health Magazine and I proposed shooting the city from an unusually high altitude so that we could capture the lines that are formed by the streets of New York at night.
— Laforet
It was an article about psychology and I’ve always thought that from a high altitude the streets looked like brain synapses.
— Laforet

Watch “AIR – Sunday Morning CBS Feature - 11/8/15" telling the story of Vincent Laforet

Used with Permission from CBS


More About Vincent Laforet


He has been sent on assignment by Vanity FairThe New York Times MagazineNational GeographicSports IllustratedTimeNewsweek, and Life. He is represented by the Stockland Martel agency.

In 2002, PDN named Vincent Laforêt as one of the “30 photographers under 30 to watch″. In 2005, American Photo Magazine recognized Laforêt as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Photography.” He and four other photographers were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography for their post-9/11 coverage overseas in 2002. His work has been recognized in the Communication Arts Annual, PDN Annual, The SPD Magazine Cover of the Year (Society of Publication Designers), The World Press Photo Awards, The Pictures of the Year Competition, The Overseas Press Club, The National Headliners Awards, The Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Vincent is a Canon Explorer of Light and Canon Printmaster and serves as consultant to companies such as Apple, Adobe, Carl Zeiss, Leica, Canon, Bogen, Lexar, and X-Rite. He and his work have been profiled on CNN and Good Morning America.

In 2008, Laforet directed "Reverie", the first widely available short film shot with the Canon 5D Mark II camera. The video has been cited by proposers of the use of DSLR cameras in digital cinematography.

In 2010, he launched a nationwide film competition "Beyond The Still" and he directed the final chapter the film which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. He is a DGA Director (Directors Guild of America) and of the ICG (International Cinematographers' Guild – Local 600.) He has directed a number of short films and numerous commercials.

In 2011, he was chosen by Canon to be one of the first 4 filmmakers to shoot with their first cinema camera, the Canon C300, and he directed the film "Mobius" which premiered at Paramount Studios. The opening was attended by Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Robert Rodriguez, and JJ Abrams.

In 2011, his first book VISUAL STORIES was released by Peachpit and describes his thought process and approach to a variety of assignments throughout his photography career.

Laforet has been awarded 3 of the prestigious Cannes Lions (Platinum, Gold, Silver) for his commercial directing work.

Laforet attended the Dalton School and received his B.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1997. He is fluent in French and English, and speaks Russian and Spanish. He lives in Manhattan Beach, California.

Laforet was an adjunct professor at the Columbia Journalism's Graduate School of Journalism, The International Center of Photography and the Poynter Institute. He was inducted in Northwestern's Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010.


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