Top positive review
The lack of techincal info is a gift.
Reviewed in the United States on October 23, 2013
Years ago, when I was starting out as an adventure photographer, I asked a mentor of mine to recommend a book. He suggested Galen Rowell's "Mountain Light". I read and I read, looking for hard, technical information that I could replicate on my own adventures and came up utterly empty. How could a photography book be so devoid of this valuable information? It was only years later, after I'd gotten over (or at least more comfortable with) my obsession with the technical bits of photography and going back to that book, that I began to understand the opportunity I'd missed.
Heisler's "50 Portraits" is exactly that sort of book. Though you can get the technical info by digging into the back, you would totally miss the best this book has to offer in doing so. The real gift is reading Heisler's words. Image by image, he tells the story behind every capture in intricate detail. From the initial assignment call and pre-visualization of the concept, to the stomach-churning stress of the sometimes chaotic moments preceding the final capture, when all of his plans seemed to be falling down around him like the fractured walls of an dilapidated building - this is the insight that no quantity of cookie-cutter workshops could ever provide. Subject interaction, achieving the proper emotion, selecting the context to match the sitter - all of this and more are what makes up the real value of this book.
There is no shortage of info out there about light modifiers, daylight balancing, broad lighting vs. short lighting and so on. But great photography is about so much more than that - it's about the whole creative process and knowing which of all those tricks will work best to compliment a person or an environment and why. While at times I selfishly wish he was more targeted in his story telling, speaking exclusively to an experienced photographic ear, I found those gaps easily back-filled by the richness of the overall info conveyed. In "50 Portraits" Heisler is letting you inside his head to hear his meticulous creative process and to be a fly on the wall, on-location (and before), while he captures some of the most evocative portraits of our time.