Olivier Létant

Olivier Létant was born in Paris in the early 70's into a family of avid photography collectors. He received his first camera when he was five and his first darkroom kit at the age of ten.

 

In his late teens, Olivier worked as an assistant photographer and experimented with studio and fashion photography. Jobs in free-lance commercial photography financed his backpacking trips overseas. These trips marked his first forays into the world of photojournalism.

 

Olivier’s first exhibit in 1991 focused on the aborigines of Australia. He was elected sociétaire to the Salon d’Automne a year later for his work in South Dakota on the Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge reservation and for his b/w portraits of bikers from the Sturgis motorcycle rally. The same year, Olivier also joined the Shooting Back from the Reservation project with Jim Hubbard (Pulitzer Prize nominee). The team used photography to help teach and empower Native American children to capture their daily lives and their communities.

 

After graduating from college, Olivier got a job as a photojournalist with Reuters in Mongolia. He later became a correspondant for Agence France Presse (AFP). While in Mongolia for the French publications Le Point and Liberation, he worked with Caroline Puel (Albert Londres Prize, 1997). Their work explored the democratization of Mongolia and its transition to a free-market economy as well as the inherent challenges of being one of the world’s last nomadic societies.

 

Olivier then moved to Beijing, China where he lived for over a decade. He became fluent in Chinese, witnessing and documenting the modernization of this vast multi-ethnic country, the destruction of old Beijing and the slow death of the traditional life in the hutongs.

 

In 2002, while on assignment in Cambodia, he decided to trade in his SLRs and to shoot exclusively with a Leica-M.

 

After completing his graduate studies at Wharton, Olivier moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from where he continues to travel across South East Asia, using photography to observe and document. He is currently at work on a book spanning the twenty years of his life spent in the region.