Photojournalist David LaBelle, His Novel, and His Photography Wit and Wisdom

Dave LaBelle’s new project is mentioned at the bottom. Check it out. You might like to invest in it!

Dave LaBelle is a photojournalist and has worked for 20 newspapers and magazines in nine states. In 1989 while at Western Kentucky University, he published the first edition of The Great Picture Hunt. He’s the author of Lessons in Death and Life, about the ethics of photographing grief. In 1991, the NPPA honored LaBelle with the Robin F. Garland Award for photojournalism education.  

In 2009, he published I Don’t Want to Know All That Technical Stuff, I Just Want to Shoot Pictures, an easy-to-read book about basic photography skills designed for beginners. Most recently, David published his first novel, Bridges and Angels: The Story of Ruth, in 2019.

He teaches and directs the photojournalism program at Kent State University in Ohio.


My Thoughts: Since I rarely take pictures, I didn’t think I’d be very interested in Dave’s photography books, with their explanations of fstops and such. There’s very little about cameras in them, but they are chocked full of learning to look and think about taking pictures, and a lot about life as a human being as well.

The Great Picture Hunt 2, “The art and ethics of feature picture hunting,” is a delightful melding of black and white photos with stories and words of wisdom. Not only for someone interested in commercial photography, or even learning about photography, this book covers so many facets of living with curiosity and imagination.

Divided into eight sections, it covers curiosity, compassion, composition, and character to captioning. Emotion and eavesdropping to ethics. Humor to how and what to hunt for photos. A beautiful book.

I don’t want to know all the technical stuff. . . I just want to shoot pictures,“The TLC approach to taking great photographs at any age”

I don’t understand the bells and whistles of cameras, and I don’t want to take the time to learn any of it. But this little book looked promising, a way to learn something about the photos I take will my “smart” phone without wading through details about film speeds, etc.

This charming book is just perfect, with delightful photos and winsome writing. Dave LaBelle teaches the difference between “artist and accident,” that pictures tell stories, that “without light, there is neither life or photography.” Surely these little tweaks will make my photos better. I didn’t even know the before-and-after-sunrise-and-sunset trick.

The Novel

David LaBelle’s first novel Bridges and Angels: The Story of Ruth blurs the line between fiction and memoir as he rewrites the ending to his own childhood tragedy. The Story of Ruth explores what could have happened when the author’s mother disappeared in a California flood during his senior year, in 1969.

My Thoughts: Haunting and even tormenting at times, this story, which has at it core a real nightmare from the author’s past, also carries with it a redemptive beauty. The author’s gift of photography shows up in compelling similes, giving the reader the experiences right along with the characters. Unforgettable images and drama. The nursing home scenes are so tastefully wrought.

The author has also given a workshop about the power of reframing stories from the past.

Dave tells the 16-minute backstory of his novel on Our American Stories. He shares ways that others may also cope with tragedies, and even change their own stories.

Here’s Dave’s website, where you can learn what else he’s up to. Be sure to watch the two short videos about his new project, “A Visual Walk With Christ.”

Update: Dave and Erin LaBelle moved to Iowa in 2022.


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