I have seen many of John Launois' photographs over the years, but I never knew his name. I certainly did not know a thing about the man himself. As a photojournalist for the Saturday Evening Post, Life, National Geographic, and other magazines, John was actually born Jean Launois in France, where he grew up during the Nazi occupation. In the prologue to L'Americain, a book about Launois' life, Chris Launois (John's son) writes:
"Oppression fueled John's rebellious nature. Defying the Germans at every turn and listening to clandestine broadcasts about the approaching liberation by U.S.-led Allied forces, the boy fell in love with America.
Soon he had a grand vision of his future. Idealizing the land of his dreams, he vowed to turn himself into a "Yank" and work for Life, the greatest of the picture magazines. With nothing but $50 and a borrowed camera, he crossed the Atlantic.
While serving as a U.S. Army soldier, he finally gained his citizenship. He went on to his "noodle years" of low-paying photographic tasks before advancing to the highest ranks of international photojournalism during its golden age."
In the introduction to L'Americain, Donald S. Connery writes:
"As a self-described "American idealist," he was forever loyal to the land of his childhood imaginings despite endless disappointments. As I knew from his frequent late-night trans-Atlantic calls, he took personally every lapse of moral leadership in Washington, every display of military arrogance, every sign of hypocrisy by political leaders ignoring social justice, and every departure from his belief in America's destiny as the shining city on a hill."
Over the course of his career, John Launois became one of the most renowned photojournalists of the 1960s. In part, he covered wars, revolutions, the Beatles, Malcolm X, pollution and the environment, the Soviet Union, and a wide range of human interest stories.
You can learn more about L'Americain here.