PRO-PORTRAIT: Photographer Richard Gerst: Sensuality in focus.

Photographer Richard Gerst believes that every photographer has a mentor, whether they admit it or not.

Early in his career, while Gerst was struggling to find his voice, his own mentor, the photographer Rick Day, said to him “stop shooting what you think other people want.”

And with that, everything changed.

Within a couple of months of taking his mentor’s advice, and placing his own eye in the foreground of his pictures, editors started answering his calls, “It just exploded,” he says.

“I realized then that when I would shoot for someone else, and be thinking about what they want, with no regard for what I am interested in, the images tended to look flat.”

Now, with renewed focus, Gerst is aimed at what is clearly an achievable goal.

“My intent is to become one of the top principal fashion photographers, and provide great commercial advertising assignment work.”

And with the way he’s moving, there seems no doubt he’ll get there. His goals have less hubris and more substance. Gerst is a fashion photographer with ambition to burn, but with an ego in-check.

He has only been shooting professionally for six or seven years, but in that timeframe he has moved from creating fine art male nudes, to editorial and commercial success as one of the top male photographers—demonstrating an understanding how to sensualize the male figure.

And now he’s successfully transitioning into the world of female fashion photography, a highly competitive world that may be one hundred times larger, with much more at stake for all who participate in the rag trade. Still, Gerst is dogged in his belief in himself. “I shoot women beautifully, and sensually, but I also know I can shoot a dress.”

Gerst has a romanticized vision of beauty that translates into his pictures. “Life is really difficult, and I like a visual language that speaks to something better, and easier, and more beautiful.

It is clear that Gerst is an overachiever in everything he does, and a strong sincerity in his work. He’s broadening his brand identity after successfully establishing himself as a great dude photographer, aiming at the next peak by demonstrating his flexibility as a photographer in shooting both men and women.

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