Dave LaBelle began his photojournalism career at the Ventura County (California) Star-Free Press as a weekend sports shooter and lab man while still in high school.
During his 40-year career, LaBelle has worked for 20 newspapers and magazines in nine states, including the Anchorage Times, San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, The Chanute Tribune, Ogden Standard-Examiner, The Sacramento Bee and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he was assistant managing editor for photography.
LaBelle’s love for feature photography and his ability to hunt out feature ideas has helped him win numerous awards. At 19, he was the youngest ever to win National Press Photographers Association Region 10 Photographer of the Year, an honor he repeated the next two years. He was runner-up to W. Eugene Smith for the first Nikon World Understanding award in 1974 and runner-up for the NPPA National Photographer of the Year award in 1979.
LaBelle joined the faculty at Western Kentucky University in 1986 and taught photojournalism for more than a decade. In 1989 while at Western, LaBelle published the first edition of “The Great Picture Hunt.” LaBelle is also the author of the book “Lessons in Death and Life,” which was published in 1992 and deals with the ethics of photographing grief. “I don’t want to know all that technical stuff,” his latest book, was published early in 2009.
In 1991, the NPPA honored LaBelle with the Robin F. Garland Award for photojournalism education. And in 2002, the Photographic Society of America Inc. honored LaBelle with the International Understanding Through Photography award. The award’s judges said, “LaBelle’s background and accomplishments in photography have contributed to greater understanding among people everywhere.”
In the fall of 2004, LaBelle was hired as photography advisor for the University of Kentucky's student newspaper, while teaching photojournalism classes and rebuilding the photojournalism program. During his three plus years at UK, the Kernel, the newspaper won the Kentucky Sweepstakes award three years running and a national Pacemaker award for Best Student Newspaper in America. In addition, in only his second year of building, the University of Kentucky placed eighth overall nationally in the Hearst Intercollegiate Photojournalism.
Today, David is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author, and lecturer. He has become a popular seminar speaker for conferences, including The Pittsburgh Conference, The Atlanta Seminar on Photojournalism, The Southern Short Course, NPPA's Flying Short Course, and the Society of Professional Journalists' National Convention.
For the past decade, David has written a monthly column on photography for Ruralite/Currents Magazine, which has a circulation of over 300,000 across the northwest and southern states.
For the past six years he has taught and directed the Photojournalism Program at Kent State University.
In January, LaBelle is scheduled to take his family to Florence, Italy and begin building a photo program with Kent State’s Florence campus.