Gregory Heisler, arguably one of the greatest portrait photographers of our times, just released his first book ever, 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer. Gregory is responsible for some of the most iconic images to have been featured on the cover pages and inside such magazines as TIME, ESPN, GQ, and Esquire.
Some of the famous individuals that have stepped in front of Gregory’s camera include Muhammad Ali, Rudy Giuliani, Julia Roberts, Michael Phelps, Greg Louganis, Yasser Arafat, and Denzel Washington. This book is all about Gregory’s stories behind 50 of these images.
As David from the Strobist pointed out, 50 Portaits is more about the photographic experience through the eyes of Gregory Heisler rather than a technical book. In many ways, this makes for a more valuable and worthwhile read for photographers than if it was just another lighting book.
We’re looking forward to getting our own copy of the book to give it a more in-depth review of 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer. In the mean time, here is a behind-the-scenes video on how Gregory Heisler lit and shot Rudy Giuliani for the TIMES Magazine Person of the Year cover, followed by four excerpts from 50 Portraits as featured on Photo District News Online.
Gregory Heisler on Shooting Rudy Giuliani
In the video from his photoshoot with Rudy Giuliani, Gregory explains how he used underlighting and light gels to accentuate the environmental lights and make it look like Rudy was lit by the environment as opposed to strobe lighting. Gregory also used a 4×5 film camera in order to achieve a shallow depth of field with a wide-angle lens.
Gregory Heisler on Photographing Boxer Legend Muhammad Ali
“We had just finished shooting the portrait that would ultimately run on the April 25, 1988, cover of Sports Illustrated … Here was The Champ, the biggest and most gregarious figure of his era. He didn’t appear unwell or unhappy, though; if anything he seemed at peace inside his own head, isolated from the world by his trauma-induced Parkinson’s [disease]. It was that quiet, peaceful but powerful aloneness I wanted to somehow see in the portrait I had yet to make.”
Gregory Heisler on Photographing Actor Hugh Grant
“The making of the portrait is fraught with unease,” writes Gregory Heisler in the introduction to 50 Portraits, his new retrospective book that showcases images of A-list actors, musicians, athletes and other notable people he’s photographed since the 1980s. “There is always a silent negotiation; a push and pull. The sitter doesn’t want to face reality; for the photographer, that’s all there is.”
Gregory Heisler on Photographing Chef Daniel Boulud
“… [Sometimes] the client presents a concept that’s just awful, an idea that’s trite, hackneyed, inappropriate, poorly thought-out, unoriginal or altogether stolen …
This portrait of chef Daniel Boulud was made in response to an editorial assignment to photograph several top New York celebrity chefs. The magazine’s photo editor had an “idea.” She wanted animated, colorful chefs shot full-length on a bright white background. She wanted them smiling. She wanted them juggling food. I had already seen such pictures, and I didn’t like them the first time.”
>Gregory Heisler on Photographing Tuskegee Experiment Survivor Herman Shaw
“I left my gear in the rented minivan as he took me on a little tour [of his house in rural Alabama]. I try to have my antennae on high alert, sensitive to anything that might catch my eye: a corner, a texture, a slash of light. Often I’m looking for something specific. It might be a spot to turn into a makeshift studio for the afternoon. It might be a room with a view. It’s a search for the telling detail that opens a window onto my subject, helping to tell a piece of the story…”
Be sure to pick up your copy of Gregory Heisler’s book, 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer. Let us know what you think about it.