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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
My level of photography is perhaps (ashamedly) below those whom this book is aimed at but I have to say I got a lot from it. The book is divided into twelve chapters that cover every aspect of portraiture from voyeurism to shooting at night or using a flash to training the eye to critically appraising portraits. However, this book covers little by way of the technical...
Published on 26 Oct 2007 by Brian Hamilton

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book, 26 Oct 2007
By 
Brian Hamilton "brianhamilton14" (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
My level of photography is perhaps (ashamedly) below those whom this book is aimed at but I have to say I got a lot from it. The book is divided into twelve chapters that cover every aspect of portraiture from voyeurism to shooting at night or using a flash to training the eye to critically appraising portraits. However, this book covers little by way of the technical aspects of photography, there are small but informative appendices but on the whole the book assumes a degree of technical knowledge of the subject.

Don't let this put you of, on the contrary, a book on portraits that concentrates on the reading of photographs by famous luminaries such as Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank is inspiring and illuminating. It certainly allows you appreciate their work on a deeper level and to critcally appraise and appreciate portraits like never before.

The quotes by famous (and not so well known) photogrpahers are themselves inspiring but at the end of each chapter is a series of assignments to allow the student to put the ideas and theories into practice. For the beginning student or those who are squeamish about approaching people to ask them sit for portraits there are assignments on photographing in public and self portraits.

I think anybody who is serious about photogrpahy will take a lot from this book whatever their level of experience. The main chapters are inspiring and inspired and the assignments are thought provoking and worthwhile.

I highly recommend this book and do not hesitate in giving it five stars. Also, I do not apologise for overusing the word inspire in thise review, anybody who reads this book and fails to have their creative spark ignited should not be into photogprahy in the first place.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite photography books, #1: "Train Your Gaze" by Roswell Angier, 9 Jun 2011
This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
There came a time in my photographic learning journey (quite early on in it, as I recall) when I realised that I knew all I was interested in knowing about f-stops, ISO, shutter speeds, hyperfocals, parallax and so on. I'm not saying I knew all there was to know - you only have to look at one of my pictures to see that's not true - just that I knew all that I could be bothered to know.

For me, pictures aren't made up of those things. If I look at, say, Bill Brandt's wonderful image "Nude, East Sussex, 1957" do I care what the f-stop was? Do I worry about the shutter speed?

Or do I care about the meaning?

I'm not going to get into a whole Roland Barthes `death of the author' discussion about meaning here; suffice it to say that I started to look for more books concerned with the theoretical side of photography.

Roswell Angier's book "Train Your Gaze" is one of my favourites in that respect. People are my favourite subject in photography and this is a great theoretical discussion about portraits and pictures of people. There are no discussions on lighting or posing, so if you're looking for that side of photography you should look elsewhere. But, if the names "Jacques Lacan" and "Laura Mulvey" mean something to you, and you're familiar with "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema", then you'll immediately start to grasp why this book is called "Train Your Gaze". It's a book about learning to see (or learning to appreciate the possibility of seeing) in a different way; it's about understanding the impact and consequences of the way that we portray people in portraits; it's about learning something about ourselves through the conscious and unconscious choices we make when we portray someone in a picture - even if that someone is us.

It's not a simple concept to get your head around, I know. Some of the reviews on Amazon have missed the point of the book quite gloriously:

- "This is a difficult book to open because of the grotesque photographs which it contains. By grotesque I mean, for example, the wrinkly ninety year old woman's vagina, or the plethora of half dead junkies living in squalor, or the physically deformed, and mentally ill." (anonymous coward)
- "The exercises are sometimes riduclous and often pretentious even for an art college student. As to photographing people this book is in no way comprehensive about photographing a human in a flattering way, AND lets face it, this is the most difficult part of photographing everyone who isnt a model. It is easy to take an ugly/unflattering but interesting picture of your Auntie or the next door neighbour, but what about one they may like to hang on their wall. Not much help in here." (John J. Plant)

I'm sorry for them that, they aren't able to appreciate that pictures of people who may not be beautiful in a Playboy centrefold way may still be beautiful, or challenging, or interesting. Perhaps they would be more at home with something like "Garage Glamor: Digital Nude and Beauty Photography Made Simple" by Rolando Gomez"

And that's fine, there's no problem with that. Me, I'm happy to take a different tack. I like to explore the more esoteric side of things - I enjoy looking for the imprint of the human mind on things, and photographs (particularly photographs of people) are an excellent way to do this. Angier says, "The question of identity is central to the practice of portrait photography. Who am I looking at? Who is doing the looking?" Photography allows us to play around with questions of identity. The way we construct an image allows us to explain and define identities, but it also allows us to construct new ones. We can reconstruct the identity of the viewer by the way we position the viewer in the image, thus challenging their perception of what they see and of themselves.

For example; the video to The Prodigy's "Smack my bitch up". Unmistakeably, the first-person gaze throughout this video is positioned as male. Any clues that we may be looking through female eyes are cleverly disguised by director Jonas Akerlund. It's not until the end of the video that we realise that we, the viewer, are female when we catch sight of our naked body in a mirror.

And that is an example of what "Train your Gaze" is about. Learning to see differently, learning to question, learning the rules of power and identity in looking and then breaking the rules. It's not about learning butterfly lighting set-ups and the most flattering focal lengths for portraits; for that you need to look elsewhere.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An original, refreshing look at portrait photography., 11 Jan 2011
This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
True, as some reviewers commented, some of the photos in this book are 'ugly' or, more accurately, aim to do something other than simply flatter the subject: this book will not help you take soft-focus portraits of your family and it has no section on pet portraiture. But I hope most people will find that quite refreshing.

It's a book for someone who wants to broaden their idea of what portraiture is about or a photographer looking for new inspiration. Although it contains hints, it's not a technical guide. Rather it introduces you to a variety of surprising stylistic themes and the history and theory behind them: e.g. portraits that slice the subject with the edge of the frame; out-of-focus subjects; 'voyeuristic' portraiture (through a keyhole, window, with a hidden camera etc.). Each theme is very engagingly and clearly explored and excellently illustrated with many examples from photographers both contemporary and historic. To push you even further, each chapter comes with a pretty difficult assignment. Again these are often quite unusual -- e.g. a self-portrait without your face or a long-exposure, light-painting portrait -- but with clear conceptual and practical pointers.

It teaches what are, perhaps, the sort of lessons you'd expect to learn if you were taking photography as part of a fine art course. In short, this is a book that will force you to think laterally about your portraits, to try something altogether new -- for me, that's exactly what I needed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars exellent purchase, 29 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
The book was delivered quickly in exelent condition. I can sincerely recommend to buy your photography books at Roswell Angier.
The book itself met all my expectations: the way the theory is mixed with practical advises makes it easy and inviting to read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More concept than technical skills, 21 July 2010
This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
A good workbook helping photographers to find out what it is they want form a portrait. In this way it scratches a good bit deeper than the standard how-to-light-and-pose books. And there are any amount of those that will show you how to flatter the sitter and carve a semi-pro career. If that's what you are looking for you should look elsewhere. And then use the two books in tandem. The book achieves what its title states, Practical through the exercises and Theoretical by helping you to learn to look and inquire. The theory here does not refer to lighting or camera. I run workshops for photographers on a variety of subjects and this is a useful book to help design content so classes can have that little extra .
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book, 1 July 2009
This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
This is a wonderful book, filled with inspiring images and words. Anyone with an interest in portrait photography should own a copy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, 13 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
Okay
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7 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars too ugly to want to open, 3 May 2010
By 
John J. Plant "dinky740" (herefordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (Paperback)
I thought that this might be a great concept-sort of like a correspondence course for budding people photogs.
It might be, but woooah, you dont want to look inside it at the ugly photos that confront you.
I really couldn't bring myself to read the text on the pages with the really ugly images on.
As to what is written well they would work as guidance if you had a live tutorial after each chapter. But it really would be difficult to improve your compostion skills or people handling skills with only your own feedback and the repellant images as examples.
Like I said-sounded like a "great concept" at the publisher's meeting, but it sort doesn't work.
The exercises are sometimes riduclous and often pretentious even for an art college student.
As to photographing people this book is in no way comprehensive about photographing a human in a flattering way, AND lets face it, this is the most difficult part of photographing everyone who isnt a model.
It is easy to take an ugly/unflattering but interesting picture of your Auntie or the next door neighbour, but what about one they may like to hang on their wall. Not much help in here.
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