This past summer I dove deep into an article on the long time debate: does a photographer's gender alter the way in which he or she photographs a subject. Is there really a difference in how one gender sees the final image, or is it just artistic preference? Two artists decided to test this theory during a creative shootout to see if all the variables stayed the same, would the image turn out differently. Does the gender of the photographer really influence the final image, or simply the approach in which is taken during the shoot?
In a loft studio located in Redbank NJ, two artists, Cate Scaglione and Neil van Niekerk, were discussing the power behind such claims of gender specific imagery. How would the outcomes look from different perspectives and approaches if factors stayed the same such as model, location and the wardrobe?
"We were talking about the gender debate always surfacing in boudoir, specifically to when it comes to shooting women. While we are both of the belief that being a great boudoir photographer is not assigned to a specific gender, we did wonder how it feels to reverse the situation and see what happens when It is a man being photographed," wrote Scaglione, Owner of Life As Fine Art. She feels gender differences do in fact play a role in how we interact or how we see the subject through our own eyes. Scaglione wrote that she shot Nick Matthews, male model and actor, more subjectively in a way a lover might see him intimately, whereas van Niekerk shot the way an objective viewer might look at him.
"My take on this is that there is such a diverse range in styles and skill levels, that it would be impossible to make any clear grouping on styles depending on the photographer’s gender. Cate believes this does have an influence. And from that, the idea for this shoot originated," wrote van Niekerk. On his blog post, Tangents, he wrote more about the technical side of his approach.
With Nick going shirtless, the soft flattering light we had with the large light source of the bounce flash, would not have shown his physique to the best. Therefore I went with one of my go-to light modifiers when working in the studio – the massive Profoto RFi 1’×6’ softbox, with that egg-crate grid on it.
In the video you can hear how each photographer directs Matthews during their progression and flow of poses. Scaglione works more in the emotional aspect of the facial expressions, whereas van Niekerk tackles the technical side of lighting the physique. Each of course have their own artistic styles, but is it driven by gender or purely by taste?
It is impossible to state that only women are more drawn to the emotion and story behind photography, because there are plenty of men driven by this same style. While it is said that more men are stereotypically action-centered and technical in their approach, the same can be said about countess female artists as well. For each accusation about gender specific styles, you will always find a photographer who will de-myth this theory. As a scientist, the debate could stem also from the slight difference in the variables such as strobe versus natural light, or not being confined to only one particle shooting space as the bed. However this is a common topic among photographers and writers so the fun and lighthearted approach by these two artists was a creative way to test these theories. Scaglione had a final thought on the matter when she wrote
Our outcomes and interactions with the client were so different, but we concluded it's not a gender based exercise at all. It is a stylistic, interpersonal, and experiential one. The client was thrilled with the results from each, even though he recognized they were vastly different. This wasn't a contest but rather an experiment and we had a blast doing it.
Video credit to documentary videographer Erik Colonese.