Gregory Heisler's book '50 Portraits Stories and techniques from a photographer's photographer', is quite a serious book about photography. The tone is set by this book being a hardback, which just feels to me a little more special than a soft back. The front cover looks serious, dark and moody (though the story inside about the cover picture is fascinating). The quality of the books is very good with high quality paper and you don't want to crease a page or do anything which might cause damage to the book, it feels like it deserves respect. The problem with this though is that it also feels that it shouldn't be opened or read.
Of course a book is meant to be read, so however guilty I felt touching the book and turning the pages. I was happy to do so because the stories inside feel quite special, in relation to how to work as a photographer. The premise of the book is that Gregory Heisler discusses 50 portraits, creating a essay for each photograph and often contrasting the image, with a second image from the same shoot. The first part of each essay is about the shoot itself, telling a story as much about the photographer and his thoughts about a shoot and often the story behind it. The second part is titled 'Thoughts on Technique' which will often focus on a particular area of his set up or philosophy.
I must admit that I enjoyed reading the stories about the days shoot the most, this is not to say that the 'Thoughts on Technique' is not good, in fact it is essential to understanding the photo and what goes on behind the image but the story of the shoot for me is often more fun to read. Heisler has a very informal first person narrative style of writing. This very much helps tell a story and allows him to articulate his thoughts in a way that makes the book a relatively easy read.
Of course a photography book is not a photography book without the photos. Gregory Heisler is a master of portraiture and the photos in the book have a feeling of an old master, but instead of painting of photography. It is noticeable that Heisler worked for Arnold Newman but he brings his own style to his photography as well. One of the things Heisler is passionate about in the books, is the creative idea and about creating his own images. It is also very noticeable that he often uses medium or large format cameras (I can't remember seeing a 35mm image). More often than not the images are black and white but he also creates some wonderful colour images.
This book, as I have said is not really a book about numbers or particular technique and unlike a lot of books where lighting is the main focus, 50 portraits is about much more than just the lighting, it is about the whole possess of creating an image, though for lighting fans, he does cover lighting in a number of the essays.
So I hopefully people can tell I enjoyed the book. It really is a great book about the photographer and his photography. It is written by someone who is passionate about portrait photography and the people who will get the most out of the book are those who are passionate themselves about portrait photography. If you want to learn about portrait photography and the ins and outs of what goes on behind a photo shoot, this is a great book, well worth investing in.